To generate realistic projections of species’ responses to climate change, we need to understand the factors that limit their ability to respond. Although climatic niche conservatism, the maintenance of a species’s climatic niche over time, is a critical assumption in niche-based species distribution models, little is known about how universal it is and how it operates. In particular, few studies have tested the role of climatic niche conservatism via phenological changes in explaining the reported wide variance in the extent of range shifts among species. Using historical records of the phenology and spatial distribution of British plants under a warming climate, we revealed that: (i) perennial species, as well as those with weaker or lagged phenological responses to temperature, experienced a greater increase in temperature during flowering (i.e. failed to maintain climatic niche via phenological changes); (ii) species that failed to maintain climatic niche via phenological changes showed greater northward range shifts; and (iii) there was a complementary relationship between the levels of climatic niche conservatism via phenological changes and range shifts. These results indicate that even species with high climatic niche conservatism might not show range shifts as instead they track warming temperatures during flowering by advancing their phenology.
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - 22 Mar 2014
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- Climate change
- Climatic niche conservatism
- Species distribution models