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A tree species range in the face of climate change: cork oak as a study case for the Mediterranean biome

Vessella, Federico, López-Tirado, Javier, Simeone, Marco Cosimo, Schirone, Bartolomeo, Hidalgo, Pablo J.
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.3 pp. 555-569
Quercus suber, applied research, biodiversity, biogeography, climate change, climatic factors, ecosystems, emissions, income, keystone species, landscapes, models, phenotypic plasticity, reforestation, trees, Iberian Peninsula, Northern Africa
Species distribution models are feasible methods for projecting theoretical responses of living organisms’ occurrence under several future climate change scenarios. The major interest is focused on trees, which regulate the equilibrium within ecosystems and guarantee the survival of many life forms on the Earth. The repercussions of climatic drivers are expected to pose the strongest threats for the Mediterranean biome, an acknowledged hotspot of biodiversity. Here, we focused on cork oak (Quercus suber L.), a keystone species of many landscapes, sustaining a rich biodiversity, ecological processes and economic incomes. Results of 8 combined ecological modelling techniques and two Global Circulation Models highlight a broad contraction of the species potential range over the twenty-first century, both under intermediate and high emissions scenarios. Coupled northward and upward shifts are predicted, mostly pertaining Iberia and North Africa. The potential areas detected at Levantine will likely undergo disappearance. To exacerbate the impacts of climate change, the future of the ecosystems linked to cork oak remains uncertain, because of the expected implications on the phenotypic plasticity or evolutionary responses. A synergy among niche-based, physiological and eco-genetic investigations is strongly needed in the field of applied research, to improve the assessment of conservation and reforestation actions.