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Contrasting climate niches among co-occurring subdominant forbs of the sagebrush steppeAuthor(s): Sarah C. Barga; Thomas E. Dilts; Elizabeth A. Leger
Source: Diversity and Distributions. 24: 1291-1307.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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DescriptionAim: Abiotic conditions are key components that determine the distribution of species. However, co-occurring species can respond differently to the same factors, and determining which climate components are most predictive of geographic distributions is important for understanding community response to climate change. Here, we estimate and compare climate niches of ten subdominant, herbaceous forb species common in sagebrush steppe systems, asking how niches differ among co-occurring species and whether more closely related species exhibit higher niche overlap. Location: Western United States. Methods: We used herbarium records and ecological niche modelling to estimate area of occupancy, niche breadth and overlap, and describe characteristics of suitable climate. We compared mean values and variability in summer precipitation and minimum temperatures at occurrence locations among species, plant families, and growth forms, and related estimated phylogenetic distances to niche overlap. Results: Species varied in the size and spatial distribution of suitable climate and in niche breadth. Species also differed in the variables contributing to their suitable climate and in mean values, spatial variation and interannual variation in highly predictive climate variables. Only two of ten species shared comparable climate niches. We found family-level differences associated with variation in summer precipitation and minimum temperatures, as well as in mean minimum temperatures. Growth forms differed in their association with variability in summer precipitation and minimum temperatures. We found no relationship between phylogenetic distance and niche overlap among our species. Main conclusions: We identified contrasting climate niches for ten Great Basin understorey forbs, including differences in both mean values and climate variability. These estimates can guide species selection for restoration by identifying species with a high tolerance for climate variability and large climatic niches. They can also help conservationists to understand which species may be least tolerant of climate variability, and potentially most vulnerable to climate change.
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CitationBarga, Sarah C.; Dilts, Thomas E.; Leger, Elizabeth A. 2018. Contrasting climate niches among co-occurring subdominant forbs of the sagebrush steppe. Diversity and Distributions. 24: 1291-1307.
Keywordsclimate variability, conservation, ecological niche modelling, herbarium, niche breadth, restoration
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