Present and future extension of the Iberian submediterranean territories as determined from the distribution of marcescent oaks
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- Sánchez de Dios, R., Benito-Garzón, M. & Sainz-Ollero, H. Plant Ecol (2009) 204: 189. doi:10.1007/s11258-009-9584-5
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The present work proposes new boundaries for the current submediterranean territories of the Iberian Peninsula, defining them at the smallest scale attempted to date. The boundaries proposed are not sharp divisions but somewhat ‘gradual’, reflecting the transitional nature of the territories they encompass. Climate change predictions were used to estimate how the distribution of these submediterranean regions might change in the near future. The maps constructed are based on the distribution of marcescent Quercus species—trees that characterise the submediterranean plant landscape where they form the main forest communities. To determine their climatic range, the distribution of different types of Iberian oak forest was represented in ‘climate diagrams’ (ordination diagrams derived from principal components analysis), both in terms of individual species and groups of species based on leaf ecophysiological type, i.e. marcescent (Submediterranean), sclerophyllous (Mediterranean), semideciduous (Mediterranean) and deciduous (Eurosiberian). The climate range of each type of forest was determined, and the means of representative climate variables are analysed by one way ANOVA. The variables differentiating the forest groups were also examined by discriminant analysis. The range of the climate variables found to be associated with the majority of marcescent forests was used to determine the distribution of territories throughout the Peninsula with the same conditions (i.e. whether marcescent forests were present or not), thus providing a map of the Iberian submediterranean territories. Predictions of climate change were used to investigate possible climate-induced modifications in the boundaries of these territories in the near future. The patterns obtained show dramatic reductions in the extension of the Iberian submediterranean environment. Submediterranean conditions will probably disappear from the areas where they currently reign, and it seems unlikely that any new, large submediterranean areas will form by displacement towards higher altitudes. The outlook for the unique submediterranean vegetation of the Iberian Peninsula is gloomy.