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Climate change increases ecogeographical isolation between closely related plants

Duffy, Karl J., Jacquemyn, Hans
Thejournal of ecology 2019 v.107 no.1 pp. 167-177
Pulmonaria, atmospheric precipitation, climate, climate change, climate models, ecology, hybrids, prediction, reproduction, temperature, Europe
Ecogeographical isolation is a fundamental prezygotic barrier to reproduction and a step towards diversification in flowering plants. However, whether ecogeographical isolation acts as a reproductive barrier between species and thus as a mechanism for species divergence is unclear and is expected to change as species distributions shift under climate change. Using a Maxent framework, we quantified the extent of ecogeographical isolation of nine closely related species of the European plant genus Pulmonaria, which lack premating barriers and often form hybrids. We investigated ecogeographical isolation under both current conditions and four climate change scenarios; two unrelated future climate models, each with two predictions of the potential trajectories of climate change. Compared with current climates, under these future climate scenarios, there will be an increase in mean annual temperature, but not in mean annual precipitation in the range of Pulmonaria throughout Europe. This will result in a range contraction in three of the nine Pulmonaria species, a range expansion in two species, and no clear effect of climate change on the ranges of four species. Climate change will result in an overall increase in ecogeographical isolation between these species in future. In particular, species that have low ecogeographical isolation under current conditions are predicted to increase the most in their ecogeographical isolation under climate change. Synthesis. These results highlight that climate change can strongly impact on a major premating barrier of closely related species, therefore potentially affect the evolutionary trajectory of plants in the future.