Research led by the University of York has found that the impacts of climate change on rare plants in tropical mountains will vary considerably from site to site and from species to species.
While some species will react to climate change by moving upslope, others will move downslope, driven by changes in seasonality and water availability. The researchers believe that this predicted variation, together with the long-term isolation and relative climatic stability of the mountains, may shed light on historical processes behind current patterns of biodiversity.
The study, published in the journal Ecography, focussed on the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya, home to some of the oldest and most biodiverse habitats on Earth. Thousands of plant and animal species live in this chain of increasingly fragmented patches of forest, woodland and grassland, many hundreds of which are found nowhere else.
The mountains are home to two of the species in the BBC's top ten new species of the decade: the grey-faced sengi (or elephant shrew) and the Kipunji monkey the first new genus of monkey to be discovered since the 1920s.
In addition to being crucial for biodiversity conservation, the value of the mountains is increasingly being realised as important to the national development of Tanzania, providing food and fibres, clean water and climate stability.
The researchers used regionally downscaled climate models based on forecasts from the Max Planck Institute (Hamburg, Germany), combined with plant specimen data from Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, USA), to show how predicted climate change could impact rare plant distributions differentially across the Eastern Arc Mountains.
Lead author Dr Phil Platts, from the University of York's Environment Department, said: "We explored the hypothesis that mountain plants will move upslope in response to climate change and found that, conversely, some species are predicted to tend downslope, d
|Contact: Caron Lett|
University of York