Dispersal limitation and spatial scale affect model based projections of Pinus uncinata response to climate change in the Pyrenees


Correspondence: Isabel Martínez, Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), C/Américo Vespucio s/n, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain, tel.  + 34 954 466 700, fax  + 34 954 62 1125, e-mail: isamcano@gmail.com


Species Distribution Models (SDMs) were employed to assess the potential impact of climate change on the distribution of Pinus uncinata in the Pyrenees, where it is the dominant tree species in subalpine forest and alpine tree lines. Predicting forest response to climate change is a challenging task in mountain regions but also a conservation priority. We examined the potential impact of spatial scale on SDM projections by conducting all analyses at four spatial resolutions. We further examined the potential effect of dispersal constraints by applying a threshold distance of maximal advancement derived from a spatially explicit, individual-based simulation model of tree line dynamics. Under current conditions, SDMs including climatic factors related to stress or growth limitation performed best. These models were then employed to project P. uncinata distribution under two emission scenarios, using data generated from several regional climate models. At the end of this century, P. uncinata is expected to migrate northward and upward, occupying habitat currently inhabited by alpine plant species. However, consideration of dispersal limitation and/or changing the spatial resolution of the analysis modified the assessment of climate change impact on mountain ecosystems, especially in the case of estimates of colonization and extinction at the regional scale. Our study highlights the need to improve the characterization of biological processes within SDMs, as well as to consider simultaneously different scales when assessing potential habitat loss under future climate conditions.