Aim Our aims were: (1) to characterize the linear relationship between the proportion of woody dicotyledonous species with entire-margined leaves (E) and mean annual temperature (MAT) from a southern temperate flora that still harbours many lineages that originated under warmer climates; (2) to compare this relationship with those developed from floras of different regions of the world; and (3) to contrast temperature predictions based on leaf margins of the native southern flora versus the naturalized alien flora, mostly of boreal origin.
Location The temperate forest of southern South America (TFSA).
Methods At each 1° latitudinal band, we estimated E based on species latitudinal ranges and MAT from both an isotherm map and a global temperature grid. We also calculated E from five local floras located between 40 and 43° S, and from the naturalized alien flora of Nahuel Huapi National Park in southern Argentina.
Results We found a close relationship between E and MAT for the TFSA. Equations developed from floras of the Northern Hemisphere overestimated extant temperatures of this biome by 6–10 °C at both geographical and local spatial scales. On the other hand, MAT predictions from leaf margins of the alien flora were similar to the actual MAT. A published regression between E and MAT from tropical South America was remarkably similar to the one we estimated from the TFSA. This tropical equation predicted accurately the temperatures observed for this temperate biome based on leaf margins of the native flora.
Main conclusions Despite massive plant extinction due to environmental cooling and biogeographical isolation during the Tertiary, leaf-margin analysis reveals that the flora of the TFSA still reflects its original development under the warmer conditions of western Gondwana and its past connections with low-latitude forest floras of tropical South America.