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Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change

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Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change

Phys.Org

 – ‎Feb 9, 2016‎

       

A UCLA-led study examining whether plant species in California have shifted to higher elevations, possibly in response to climate change, discovered that non-native plants are moving fastest, altering and potentially damaging ecosystems. The research, led by UCLA professor Jon Christensen, also showed significantly less movement by species that grow only in California, suggesting that these endemic species may have the hardest time adapting to the challenges of climate change.

“We see different kinds of species moving at different rates, and that raises the concern that California’s ecosystems are unraveling,” said Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor of history and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Native species may face not only a changing climate, but also competition from invasive species which are moving more quickly.”

It’s concerning that some endemic species, like giant sequoias, and many native species, like redwoods, show little to no sign of shifting as their local habitats change, the researchers said. Their analysis showed that 15 percent of plant species in California are creeping higher. However, 27 percent of non-native species are on the move, compared to 15 percent of native species and just 12 percent of endemic species, according to their study, “Altitudinal shifts of the native and introduced flora of California in the context of 20th-century warming,” which appeared Jan. 22 in the journal of Global Ecology and Biogeography….

 

Adam Wolf et al. Altitudinal shifts of the native and introduced flora of California in the context of 20th-century warming,
Global Ecology and Biogeography (2016). DOI: 10.1111/geb.12423

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