• Climate change;
  • diversity gradients;
  • endemism;
  • energy;
  • history;
  • Pleistocene ice ages;
  • Quaternary;
  • range size;
  • spatial autoregressive modelling;
  • species pool


Aim  This study uses a high-resolution simulation of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) climate to assess: (1) whether LGM climate still affects the geographical species richness patterns in the European tree flora and (2) the relative importance of modern and LGM climate as controls of tree species richness in Europe.

Location  The parts of Europe that were unglaciated during the LGM.

Methods  Atlas data on the distributions of 55 tree species were linked with data on modern and LGM climate and climatic heterogeneity in a geographical information system with a 60-km grid. Four measures of species richness were computed: total richness, and richness of the 18 most restricted species, 19 species of medium incidence (intermediate species) and 18 most widespread species. We used ordinary least-squares regression and spatial autoregressive modelling to test and estimate the richness–climate relationships.

Results  LGM climate constituted the best single set of explanatory variables for richness of restricted species, while modern climate and climatic heterogeneity was best for total and widespread species richness and richness of intermediate species, respectively. The autoregressive model with all climatic predictors was supported for all richness measures using an information-theoretic approach, albeit only weakly so for total species richness. Among the strongest relationships were increases in total and intermediate richness with climatic heterogeneity and in restricted richness with LGM growing-degree-days. Partial regression showed that climatic heterogeneity accounted for the largest unique variation fraction for intermediate richness, while LGM climate was particularly important for restricted richness.

Main conclusions  LGM climate appears to still affect geographical patterns of tree species richness in Europe, albeit the relative importance of modern and LGM climate depends on range size. Notably, LGM climate is a strong richness control for species with a restricted range, which appear to still be associated with their glacial refugia.