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Ecological niche modeling of coastal dune plants and future potential distribution in response to climate change and sea level rise

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Abstract

Climate change (CC) and sea level rise (SLR) are phenomena that could have severe impacts on the distribution of coastal dune vegetation. To explore this we modeled the climatic niches of six coastal dunes plant species that grow along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, and projected climatic niches to future potential distributions based on two CC scenarios and SLR projections. Our analyses suggest that distribution of coastal plants will be severely limited, and more so in the case of local endemics (Chamaecrista chamaecristoides, Palafoxia lindenii, Cakile edentula). The possibilities of inland migration to the potential ‘new shoreline’ will be limited by human infrastructure and ecosystem alteration that will lead to a ‘coastal squeeze’ of the coastal habitats. Finally, we identified areas as future potential refuges for the six species in central Gulf of Mexico, and northern Yucatán Peninsula especially under CC and SLR scenarios.

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