Extinction risk of North American seed plants elevated by climate and land-use change.

Published online
12 Apr 2017
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Zhang Jian & Nielsen, S. E. & Chen YouHua & Georges, D. & Qin YuChu & Wang SiShuo & Svenning, J. C. & Thuiller, W.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
North America


Climate and land-use change are expected to substantially alter future plant species distributions leading to higher extinction rates. However, little is known about how plant species ranges, richness and phylogenetic diversity of continents will be affected by these dynamics. We address this gap here by examining the patterns of species' distributions and phylogenetic relationships for 7465 seed plant taxa in North America. An ensemble of species distribution models was used to estimate the potential suitable habitat of species under different sets of climate, land-use and dispersal constraint scenarios. We then evaluated the vulnerability and extinction risk of individual species to changes in climate and land use, and examined whether rare, endangered and evolutionarily distinct species were disproportionally threatened by climate and land-use change. We show that ∼2000 species may lose >80% of their suitable habitats under the A1b emission scenario for the 2080s, while ∼100 species may experience >80% range expansions (a 20 : 1 ratio of loss to gain). When considering >50% range retraction and expansion, the ratio of loss to gain was 13 : 1. A greater loss of species diversity is expected at low latitudes, while larger gains are expected at high latitudes. Evolutionarily distinct species are predicted to have significantly higher extinction risks than extant species. This suggests a disproportionate future loss of phylogenetic diversity for the North American flora. Synthesis and applications. Our study provides continental-scale evidence of plant species extinction risk caused by future climate and land-use change, and highlights the importance of integrating phylogenetic measures into conservation risk assessments. This work provides insight into the status, trends and threats for a large share of North America's plant species by identifying risks and prioritizing conservation in a rapidly changing world.

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