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Climate change and the future of endemic flora in the South Western Alps: relationships between niche properties and extinction risk

Abstract : Climate change seriously threatens biodiversity, particularly in mountain ecosystems. However, studies on climate change effects rarely consider endemic species and their niche properties. Using species distribution models, we assessed the impact of climate change on the endemic flora of the richest centre of endemism in the Alps: the SouthWestern Alps. We projected the potential distributions of 100 taxa under both an optimistic (RCP2.6) and a pessimistic (RCP8.5) climate scenario, analysing the relationships between range dynamics and several predictors (dispersal abilities, vegetation belts, niche marginality, niche breadth, altitudinal range and present range). The negative impact ranged from weak to severe according to the scenario, but the extinction risk was low. The dispersal abilities of species strongly affected these range dynamics. Colline and subalpine species were the most threatened and the relationship between range dynamics and predictors varied among vegetation belts. Our results suggest that the rough topography of the SW Alps will probably buffer the climate change effects on endemics, especially if climate will remain within the limits already experienced by species during the Holocene. The presence of the Mediterranean-mountain flora, less affected by climate change than the alpine one, may explain the lower number of species threatened by extinction in the SW Alps than in other European mountains. These results suggest that the relationship between plants' sensitivity to climate change, and both niche properties and vegetation belts, depends on the difference between the current climate in which species grow and the future climate, and not just on their niche breadth.
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Davide Dagnino, Maria Guerrina, Luigi Minuto, Mauro Giorgio Mariotti, Frédéric Médail, et al.. Climate change and the future of endemic flora in the South Western Alps: relationships between niche properties and extinction risk. Regional Environmental Change, Springer Verlag, 2020, 20 (4), ⟨10.1007/s10113-020-01708-4⟩. ⟨hal-02975100⟩

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