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Keywords:

  • Climate change;
  • Europe;
  • herbaceous forest species;
  • latitudinal gradient;
  • reproduction;
  • seeds;
  • temperature

ABSTRACT

Aim  To investigate the effect of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproductive traits of widespread perennial forest herbs to better understand the potential impacts of rising temperatures on their population dynamics and colonization capacities.

Location  Six regions along a latitudinal gradient from France to Sweden.

Methods  Within each region, we collected data from three to five populations of up to six species. For each species, several variables were recorded in each region (temperature, latitude) and population (local abiotic and biotic environmental variables), and seed production and germination were estimated. Resource investment in reproduction (RIR) was quantified as seed number × seed mass, while germinable seed output (GSO) was expressed as seed number × germination percentage. We performed linear regression and mixed effect models to investigate the effects of temperature (growing degree hours), latitude and local abiotic and biotic environment on RIR and GSO.

Results  Temperature and latitude explained most of the variation in RIR and GSO for early flowering species with a northerly distribution range edge (Anemone nemorosa, Paris quadrifolia and Oxalis acetosella). Reproduction of the more southerly distributed species (Brachypodium sylvaticum, Circaea lutetiana and Primula elatior), in contrast, was independent of temperature/latitude. In the late summer species, B. sylvaticum and C. lutetiana, variation in RIR and GSO was best explained by local environmental variables, while none of the investigated variables appeared to be related to reproduction in P. elatior.

Main conclusions  We showed that reproduction of only two early flowering, northerly distributed species was related to temperature. This suggests that the potential reproductive response of forest herbs to climate warming partly depends on their phenology and distribution, but also that the response is to some extent species dependent. These findings should be taken into account when predictions about future shifts in distribution range are made.