Protecting endemic seed plants on the Tibetan Plateau under future climate change: Migration matters


Climate change in the near future may become a major threat to high-altitude endemics by greatly altering their distribution. Our aims are to (i) assess the potential impacts of future climate change on the diversity and distribution of seed plants endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and (ii) evaluate the conservation effectiveness of the current National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in protecting the endemic plants in the face of climate change. We projected range shifts of 993 endemic species to the years 2050 and 2070 under two representative concentration pathway scenarios using an ensemble species distribution modeling framework and evaluated range loss, species-richness change and coverage of the current conservation network considering two dispersal scenarios. In a full-dispersal scenario, 72-81% of the species would expand their distribution by 2070, but 6-20% of the species would experience >30% range loss. Most species would shift to the west. The projected species net richness would increase across the region on average. In a no-dispersal scenario, 15-59% of the species would lose >30% of their current habitat by 2070. Severe species loss may occur in the southeastern and the eastern peripheral plateau. Seventeen percent of species ranges are covered by the NNRs on average and may increase in the future if species disperse freely. We found a significant difference of species redistribution patterns between different dispersal scenarios and highlighted the importance of migration in this region.

Journal of Plant Ecology