Plants maintain climate fidelity in the face of dynamic climate change
by Yue Wang | Sun Yat-sen University, China
Abstract ID: 45
Event: The 3rd AsiaEvo Conference
Topic: Paleo- and macro- ecology in tropical Asia
Presenter Name: Yue Wang

Plants will experience considerable changes in climate within their geographic ranges over the next several decades. They may respond by exhibiting niche flexibility and adapting to changing climates. Alternatively, plant taxa may exhibit climate fidelity, shifting their geographic distributions to track their preferred climates. Here, we examine the responses of plant taxa to changing climates over the past 18,000 y to evaluate the extent to which the 16 dominant plant taxa of North America have exhibited climate fidelity. We find that 75% of plant taxa consistently exhibit climate fidelity over the past 18,000 y, even during the times of most extreme climate change. Of the four taxa that do not consistently exhibit climate fidelity, three — elm (Ulmus), beech (Fagus), and ash (Fraxinus) — experience a long-term shift in their realized climatic niche between the early Holocene and present day. Plant taxa that migrate longer distances better maintain consistent climatic niches across transition periods during times of the most extreme climate change. Today, plant communities with the highest climate fidelity are found in regions with high topographic and microclimate heterogeneity that are expected to exhibit high climate resilience, allowing plants to shift distributions locally and adjust to some amount of climate change. However, once the climate change buffering of the region is exceeded, these plant communities will need to track climates across broader landscapes but be challenged to do so because of the low habitat connectivity of the regions.