Although patterns of change are predicted to be complex, the authors note that their findings link with theories of past ecosystem stability.
Dr Platts said: "We considered the possibility that plants might migrate rapidly to keep pace with 21st century climate change, and found that sites with many rare species are characterised by climates significantly more likely to remain accessible to those plants in the future. This fits with the idea that similar processes in the past underlie the patterns of biodiversity and endemism (organisms unique to a certain region) that we observe today: during glacial-interglacial cycles, old evolutionary lines were able to maintain populations in sites such as the Eastern Arc, while facing extinction elsewhere."
Professor Neil Burgess, co-author and Chief Scientist at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, added a cautionary note: "For many organisms, effective dispersal has been massively curtailed by human activity, and so their future persistence is far from certain. Especially on lower slopes, climate-induced migrations will be hampered by fragmentation and degradation of the habitat mosaic."
The researchers warn of the problems of using larger-scale, global climate models to assess localised impacts of climate change. They say that two thirds of the modelled plant species are predicted to respond in different directions in different parts of their ranges, exemplifying the need for a regional focus in climate change impact assessment.
"Conservation planners, and those charged more broadly with developing climate adaption policy, are advised to take caution in inferring local patterns of change from zoomed perspectives of broad-scale models," said Dr Platts.
The study emphasises the importance of seasonality and moisture, rather than altitude and mean temperature, for determining the impacts of climate chan
|Contact: Caron Lett|
University of York