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Genecological approaches to predicting the effects of climate change on plant populations

Posted date: March 04, 2015
Publication Year: 
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Natural Areas Journal. 35(1):152-164.


Climate change threatens native plant populations and plant communities globally. It is critical that land managers have a clear understanding of climate change impacts on plant species and populations so that restoration efforts can be adjusted accordingly. This paper reviews the develop.ment and use of seed transfer guidelines for restoration in the face of global climate change, with an emphasis on the role of common garden studies in predicting climate change impacts. A method is presented for using genecological common garden data to assess population vulnerability to changing environmental conditions that includes delineation of geographical regions where habitats are likely to become marginal, assessment of shifting climatic selection pressures on plant traits, and identification of source material that is likely to be adapted to changing conditions. This method is illustrated using a genecological dataset for bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata). The demonstration indicates that bluebunch populations will be vulnerable to extirpation in areas of their current range, that selection pressures will increase on a trait important to climatic adaptation, and that promising seed sources exist that may be able to persist under novel conditions. Additional avenues for expansion of the presented methods are discussed, and the use of common garden data for management in the context of evolution and changing climates is considered.


Kilkenny, Francis F. 2015. Genecological approaches to predicting the effects of climate change on plant populations. Natural Areas Journal. 35(1):152-164.