Climate change effects on animal and plant phylogenetic diversity in southern Africa

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Abstract

Much attention has been paid to the effects of climate change on species' range reductions and extinctions. There is however surprisingly little information on how climate change driven threat may impact the tree of life and result in loss of phylogenetic diversity (PD). Some plant families and mammalian orders reveal nonrandom extinction patterns, but many other plant families do not. Do these discrepancies reflect different speciation histories and does climate induced extinction result in the same discrepancies among different groups? Answers to these questions require representative taxon sampling. Here, we combine phylogenetic analyses, species distribution modeling, and climate change projections on two of the largest plant families in the Cape Floristic Region (Proteaceae and Restionaceae), as well as the second most diverse mammalian order in Southern Africa (Chiroptera), and an herbivorous insect genus (Platypleura) in the family Cicadidae to answer this question. We model current and future species distributions to assess species threat levels over the next 70 years, and then compare projected with random PD survival. Results for these animal and plant clades reveal congruence. PD losses are not significantly higher under predicted extinction than under random extinction simulations. So far the evidence suggests that focusing resources on climate threatened species alone may not result in disproportionate benefits for the preservation of evolutionary history.

Ancillary