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Keywords:

  • Agulhas Plain;
  • British Isles;
  • Fynbos endemic birds;
  • HadCM3;
  • Lagopus lagopus scotica;
  • Loxia scoticus;
  • LPJ-GUESS;
  • peri-glacial survival;
  • phylogeography;
  • South Africa

ABSTRACT

Aim  To test the following hypotheses: that Fynbos species had more extensive distributions at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), extending onto the exposed ‘Agulhas Plain’; that genetically distinct British taxa could have persisted through the LGM on adjacent areas of exposed shelf.

Location  Southern Africa; Europe.

Methods  Climatic response surfaces were fitted for 14 Fynbos and two European birds. These models were used to hindcast species distributions for palaeoclimates simulated using a fully coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation model. LGM annual net primary productivity (ANPP) of two plant functional types upon which the European birds depend were simulated using a dynamic vegetation model and compared with potential LGM bird distributions.

Results  Fynbos birds' potential LGM distributions mostly extended southwards onto the exposed Agulhas Plain and were consistently more extensive than at present. This contrasts with conventional expectations for temperate species based upon Northern Hemisphere evidence. North-west European taxa potentially had LGM ranges on exposed shelf and ice-free areas to the west and south-west of the British Isles ice sheet. This is consistent with available genetic evidence, supporting the long-standing hypothesis that these taxa persisted through the LGM in this region. In both regions, results allow the generation of new testable hypotheses about species evolution and palaeobiogeography.

Main conclusions  Bird species found today in the Fynbos probably had more extensive ranges under glacial conditions, with the potential ranges of many species extending onto the Agulhas Plain. Bird taxa restricted today to the British Isles probably survived the LGM with limited distributions on exposed shelf and ice-free areas south-west of the British Isles ice sheet. Areas of shelf exposed under glacial conditions are likely to have been important components of glacial distributions of species in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. The contrasting history of Northern and Southern Hemisphere species has important conservation implications, especially in relation to conserving intra-specific genetic diversity.