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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • biogeographic gradients;
  • Cape floristic region;
  • climate change scenarios;
  • land transformation;
  • Succulent Karoo

Abstract

We modelled the future distribution in 2050 of 975 endemic plant species in southern Africa distributed among seven life forms, including new methodological insights improving the accuracy and ecological realism of predictions of global changes studies by: (i) using only endemic species as a way to capture the full realized niche of species, (ii) considering the direct impact of human pressure on landscape and biodiversity jointly with climate, and (iii) taking species' migration into account. Our analysis shows important promises for predicting the impacts of climate change in conjunction with land transformation. We have shown that the endemic flora of Southern Africa on average decreases with 41% in species richness among habitats and with 39% on species distribution range for the most optimistic scenario. We also compared the patterns of species' sensitivity with global change across life forms, using ecological and geographic characteristics of species. We demonstrate here that species and life form vulnerability to global changes can be partly explained according to species' (i) geographical distribution along climatic and biogeographic gradients, like climate anomalies, (ii) niche breadth or (iii) proximity to barrier preventing migration. Our results confirm that the sensitivity of a given species to global environmental changes depends upon its geographical distribution and ecological proprieties, and makes it possible to estimate a priori its potential sensitivity to these changes.