Berkeley -- The native plants unique to California are so vulnerable to global climate change that two-thirds of these "endemics" could suffer more than an 80 percent reduction in geographic range by the end of the century, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study.
Because endemic species - native species not found outside the state - make up nearly half of all California's native plants, a changing climate will have a major impact on the state's unparalleled plant diversity, the researchers warn.
"Our study projects that climate change will profoundly impact the future of the native flora in California," said David Ackerly, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "The magnitude and speed of climate change today is greater than during past glacial periods, and plants are in danger of getting killed off before they can adjust their distributions to keep pace."
The researchers caution that their study can't reliably predict the fate of specific species. However, the trend is clear: The researchers project that, in response to rising temperatures and altered rainfall, many plants could move northward and toward the coast, following the shifts in their preferred climate, while others, primarily in the southern part of the state and in Baja California, may move up mountains into cool but highly vulnerable refugia
Coast redwoods may range farther north, for example, while California oaks could disappear from central California in favor of cooler weather in the Klamath Mountains along the California-Oregon border. Many plants may no longer be able to survive in the northern Sierra Nevada or in the Los Angeles basin, while plants of northern Baja California will migrate north into the San Diego mountains. The Central Valley will become preferred habitat for plants of the Sonoran desert.
"Across the flora, there will be winners and losers," said first author Scott Loarie, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke Un
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley