Anticipating the spatio-temporal response of plant diversity and vegetation structure to climate and land use change in a protected area
Article first published online: 17 APR 2014
© 2014 The Authors
How to Cite
Boulangeat, I., Georges, D., Dentant, C., Bonet, R., Van Es, J., Abdulhak, S., Zimmermann, N. E. and Thuiller, W. (2014), Anticipating the spatio-temporal response of plant diversity and vegetation structure to climate and land use change in a protected area. Ecography. doi: 10.1111/ecog.00694
- Article first published online: 17 APR 2014
- Paper manuscript accepted 4 March 2014
Vegetation is a key driver of ecosystem functioning (e.g. productivity and stability) and of the maintenance of biodiversity (e.g. creating habitats for other species groups). While vegetation sensitivity to climate change has been widely investigated, its spatio-temporally response to the dual effects of land management and climate change has been ignored at landscape scale. Here we use a dynamic vegetation model called FATE-HD, which describes the dominant vegetation dynamics and associated functional diversity, in order to anticipate vegetation response to climate and land-use changes in both short and long-term perspectives. Using three contrasted management scenarios for the Ecrins National Park (French Alps) developed in collaboration with the park managers, and one regional climate change scenario, we tracked the dynamics of vegetation structure (forest expansion) and functional diversity over 100 yr of climate change and a further 400 additional years of stabilization. As expected, we observed a slow upward shift in forest cover distribution, which appears to be severely impacted by pasture management (i.e. maintenance or abandonment). The time lag before observing changes in vegetation cover was the result of demographic and seed dispersal processes. However, plant diversity response to environmental changes was rapid. After land abandonment, local diversity increased and spatial turnover was reduced, whereas local diversity decreased following land use intensification. Interestingly, in the long term, as both climate and management scenarios interacted, the regional diversity declined. Our innovative spatio-temporally explicit framework demonstrates that the vegetation may have contrasting responses to changes in the short and the long term. Moreover, climate and land-abandonment interact extensively leading to a decrease in both regional diversity and turnover in the long term. Based on our simulations we therefore suggest a continuing moderate intensity pasturing to maintain high levels of plant diversity in this system.