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Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia


Patsiou, Theofania; Conti, Elena; Zimmermann, Niklaus E; Theodoridis, Spyros; Randin, Christophe F (2014). Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia. Global Change Biology:Online.

Abstract

Ongoing rapid climate change is predicted to cause local extinction of plant species in mountain regions. However, some plant species could have persisted during Quaternary climate oscillations without shifting their range, despite the limited evidence from fossils. Here, we tested two candidate mechanisms of persistence by comparing the macrorefugia and microrefugia hypotheses. We used the rare and endemic Saxifraga florulenta as a model taxon and combined ensembles of species distribution models (SDMs) with a high-resolution paleoclimatic and topographic dataset to reconstruct its potential current and past distribution since the last glacial maximum. To test the macrorefugia hypothesis, we verified whether the species could have persisted in or shifted to geographic areas defined by its realized niche. We then identified potential microrefugia based on climatic and topographic properties of the landscape and applied refined scenarios of microrefugia dynamics and functions over time. Last, we quantified the number of known occurrences that could be explained by either the macrorefugia or microrefugia model. A consensus of two or three SDM techniques predicted absence between 14-10, 3-4 ka and 1 ka BP, which did not support the macrorefugia model. In contrast, we showed that S. florulenta could have contracted into microrefugia during periods of absence predicted by the SDMs and later re-colonized suitable areas according to the macrorefugia model. Assuming a limited and realistic seed dispersal distance for our species, we explained a large number of the current occurrences (61-96%). Additionally, we showed that microrefugia could have facilitated range expansions or shifts of S. florulenta. Finally, we found that the most recent and the most stable microrefugia were the ones closest to current occurrences. Hence, we propose a novel paradigm to explain plant persistence by highlighting the importance of supporting functions of microrefugia when forecasting the fate of plant species under climate change. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Ongoing rapid climate change is predicted to cause local extinction of plant species in mountain regions. However, some plant species could have persisted during Quaternary climate oscillations without shifting their range, despite the limited evidence from fossils. Here, we tested two candidate mechanisms of persistence by comparing the macrorefugia and microrefugia hypotheses. We used the rare and endemic Saxifraga florulenta as a model taxon and combined ensembles of species distribution models (SDMs) with a high-resolution paleoclimatic and topographic dataset to reconstruct its potential current and past distribution since the last glacial maximum. To test the macrorefugia hypothesis, we verified whether the species could have persisted in or shifted to geographic areas defined by its realized niche. We then identified potential microrefugia based on climatic and topographic properties of the landscape and applied refined scenarios of microrefugia dynamics and functions over time. Last, we quantified the number of known occurrences that could be explained by either the macrorefugia or microrefugia model. A consensus of two or three SDM techniques predicted absence between 14-10, 3-4 ka and 1 ka BP, which did not support the macrorefugia model. In contrast, we showed that S. florulenta could have contracted into microrefugia during periods of absence predicted by the SDMs and later re-colonized suitable areas according to the macrorefugia model. Assuming a limited and realistic seed dispersal distance for our species, we explained a large number of the current occurrences (61-96%). Additionally, we showed that microrefugia could have facilitated range expansions or shifts of S. florulenta. Finally, we found that the most recent and the most stable microrefugia were the ones closest to current occurrences. Hence, we propose a novel paradigm to explain plant persistence by highlighting the importance of supporting functions of microrefugia when forecasting the fate of plant species under climate change. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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13 citations in Web of Science®
14 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Systematic Botany and Botanical Gardens
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:24 Jan 2014 08:28
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:26
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1354-1013
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12515
PubMed ID:24375923
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-89173

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