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Empirical analyses of plant-climate relationships for the western United States

Formally Refereed
Authors: Gerald E. Rehfeldt, Nicholas L. Crookston, Marcus V. Warwell, Jeffrey S. Evans
Year: 2006
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
Source: International Journal of Plant Sciences. 167(6): 1123-1150.


The Random Forests multiple-regression tree was used to model climate profiles of 25 biotic communities of the western United States and nine of their constituent species. Analyses of the communities were based on a gridded sample of ca. 140,000 points, while those for the species used presence-absence data from ca. 120,000 locations. Independent variables included 35 simple expressions of temperature and precipitation and their interactions. Classification errors for community models averaged 19%, but the errors were reduced by half when adjusted for misalignment between geographic data sets. Errors of omission for species-specific models approached 0, while errors of commission were less than 9%. Mapped climate profiles of the species were in solid agreement with range maps. Climate variables of most importance for segregating the communities were those that generally differentiate maritime, continental, and monsoonal climates, while those of importance for predicting the occurrence of species varied among species but consistently implicated the periodicity of precipitation and temperature-precipitation interactions. Projections showed that unmitigated global warming should increase the abundance primarily of the montane forest and grassland community profiles at the expense largely of those of the subalpine, alpine, and tundra communities but also that of the arid woodlands. However, the climate of 47% of the future landscape may be extramural to contemporary community profiles. Effects projected on the spatial distribution of species-specific profiles were varied, but shifts in space and altitude would be extensive. Species-specific projections were not necessarily consistent with those of their communities.


bioclimatic models, Random Forests multiple-regression tree, climatic distributions, climatic niche, response to climate change, global warming


Rehfeldt, Gerald E.; Crookston, Nicholas L.; Warwell, Marcus V.; Evans, Jeffrey S. 2006. Empirical analyses of plant-climate relationships for the western United States. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 167(6): 1123-1150.