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Exploring range shifts of contrasting tree species across a bioclimatic transition zone

Hernández, Laura, Sánchez de Dios, Rut, Montes, Fernando, Sainz-Ollero, Helios, Cañellas, Isabel
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.3 pp. 481-492
Fagus sylvatica, Pinus sylvestris, Quercus ilex, altitude, forest ecosystems, forest inventory, forests, global warming, humans, kriging, land use change, models, monitoring, national forests, probability, species diversity, temperature, trees, Spain, United Kingdom
Bioclimatic transition zones are supposed to encompass sensitive areas to global change effects on forest ecosystems. In this study, we attempt to detect shifts in the ranges of contrasting Iberian tree species in the submediterranean transition zone in Navarra, northern Spain. These shifts are analysed in the context of a significant increase in temperature over recent decades along with moderate land use changes. Data from national forest inventories (1971 and 2010) are compared through universal kriging (UK) and block kriging models to assess the shifts in the ranges of Quercus subpyrenaica, Quercus ilex, Pinus sylvestris and Fagus sylvatica. UK results predicted an increase in the presence probability of the four target species for the whole Navarra region. However, in the submediterranean zone, the presence probability of Q. subpyrenaica, P. sylvestris and F. sylvatica shows a shrinking trend, whereas Q. ilex is expanding its range, supporting a previous hypothesis of a “mediterranization” of this bioclimatic transition region. These trends are concomitant with recent elevational shift patterns towards higher elevations in the case of Q. subpyrenaica, P. sylvestris and F. sylvatica in the transition zone. Moreover, the expected increase in species richness as a consequence of geographical shifts and vegetation recovery is identified. The moderate human influence detected in the study area confirms the major role of climate warming as driver of species range shifts over the period. The results of this study highlight the suitability of bioclimatic transition zones for monitoring the effects of global change on natural ecosystems, providing evidences of the complex mechanisms affecting the distribution of forests.