Glen-Affric-Scots-Pine-03Recent changes in climate registered at planetary scale during the last decades are altering the ecological conditions for many species. Consequences of these alterations are usually more evident at species’ range edges, since conditions there are usually closer to the tolerance limits. In these locations, an alteration of  the existing conditions able to alter current population dynamics might imply a range expansion or contraction.  Researchers from the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology (IRNAS) and the Universities of Stirling (UK) and Pablo de Olavide collaborated on a study aimed to explore the response to climatic variations of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) populations through its complete latitudinal distribution (from the Arctic to the Mediterranean) and across an altitudinal gradient at the southernmost distribution limit of the species. By the study of tree rings, authors determined the relationship between climate and radial growth for the different study locations, and developed a mathematical model able to predict tree growth up to the end of the present century under different scenarios of global change.

Results of this study showed the importance of temperature regulating tree growth, but sensitivity to climate vary along the species distribution. The model forecast a generalised growth increase at high elevations across the complete distribution range up to year 2100. However, model also predicts a strong growth decrease at lowland populations located at the southern distribution of the species from 2040 onwards, suggesting an upland displacement over the coming decades. Knowing in advance the response of forest species to climate change is of special interest in order to plan management strategies able to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to preserve natural forest resources.

Results of this study have been recently published on the prestigious journal Global Change Biology:

Matías, L., Linares, J. C., Sánchez-Miranda, Á. and Jump, A. S. (2017). Contrasting growth forecasts across the geographical range of Scots pine due to altitudinal and latitudinal differences in climatic sensitivity. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.13627.

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