Relationship between projected changes in future climatic suitability and demographic and functional traits of forest tree species in Spain

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The response of plant species to future climate conditions is probably dependent on their ecological characteristics, including climatic niche, demographic rates and functional traits. Using forest inventory data from 27 dominant woody species in Spanish forests, we explore the relationships between species characteristics and projected changes in their average climatic suitability (occurrence of suitable climatic conditions for a species in a given territory) obtained by empirical niche-based models, under a business-as-usual climate change scenario (A1, HadCM3, 2001-2100). We hypothesize that most species will suffer a decline in climatic suitability, with a less severe for species (i) currently living in more arid climates or exhibiting a broader current climatic niche; (ii) with higher current growth rates; (iii) with functional traits related to resistance to water deficits. The analysis confirm our hypothesis since apart from a few Mediterranean species, most species decrease their climatic suitability in the region under future climate, characterized by increased aridity. Also, species living in warmer locations or under a wider range of climatic conditions tend to experience less decrease in climatic suitability. As hypothesized, a positive relationship was detected between current relative growth rates and increase in future climatic suitability. Nevertheless, current tree mortality did not correlate with changes in future climatic suitability. In contrast with our hypothesis, functional traits did not show a clear relationship with changes in climate suitability; instead species often presented idiosyncratic responses that, in some cases, could reflect past management. These results suggest that the extrapolation of species performance to future climatic scenarios based on current patterns of dominance is constrained by factors other than species autoecology, particularly human activity. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-462
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013


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