Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 113–122 | Cite as

Revisiting tree-migration rates: Abies alba (Mill.), a case study

  • Rachid CheddadiEmail author
  • H. John B. Birks
  • Pedro Tarroso
  • Sascha Liepelt
  • Dusan Gömöry
  • Stefan Dullinger
  • Eliane S. Meier
  • Karl Hülber
  • Luigi Maiorano
  • Henri Laborde
Original Article


At northern temperate latitudes trees have adjusted their ranges substantially in response to changing climates during the Holocene. Results from dispersal model simulations suggest that postglacial migration rates may have been over-estimated from fossil pollen data. As a contribution to this debate, we infer the migration rates of Abies alba (Mill.), silver fir, as a case-study species, by using a spatially explicit approach based on fossil pollen but taking into account its modern genetic diversity pattern. Maximum estimates of migration rates from fossil pollen data alone are higher than 700 m yr−1 during the Holocene. Considering the potential refugia as suggested from all the fossil data but restricting the area over which silver fir expanded from each glacial refugium using data on the current haplotype distribution, the estimated maximum migration rates of silver fir are less than 250 m yr−1. Genetic information may allow for (1) the exclusion of those refugial areas where the species may have survived during the last glacial period but from which it did not spread or spread only very locally and (2) the delineation of the areas over which the species spread from each glacial refugium. The estimated rates in the present study are generally consistent with rates suggested from modelling approaches. This study shows that integrating fossil pollen records can improve simulations of dispersal processes and, thus, allow for better predictions of future changes in tree species’ ranges.


Migration rate Biogeography Abies alba Pollen DNA Holocene 



This work was supported by and is a contribution to the ECOCHANGE European project. PT is supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia Grant SFRH/BD/42480/2007. The European Pollen Database contributors ( are gratefully acknowledged for making their data-sets publicly available to the scientific community. The following free software was used in this publication: the R language with several libraries, the Generic Mapping Tools, QGIS, MySQL and phpmyadmin. HJBB acknowledges invaluable help from Cathy Jenks. The manuscript has been substantially improved by W. Tinner, by Th. Giesecke, and by two anonymous reviewers. This is an ISEM contribution number 2013-029.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachid Cheddadi
    • 1
    Email author
  • H. John B. Birks
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pedro Tarroso
    • 1
    • 5
  • Sascha Liepelt
    • 6
  • Dusan Gömöry
    • 7
  • Stefan Dullinger
    • 8
    • 9
  • Eliane S. Meier
    • 10
  • Karl Hülber
    • 8
    • 9
  • Luigi Maiorano
    • 11
  • Henri Laborde
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de l’Évolution, UMR UM2-CNRS-IRD 5554University of Montpellier-2Montpellier Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Bjerknes Centre for Climate ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Environmental Change Research CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  5. 5.Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal
  6. 6.Conservation Biology, Faculty of BiologyPhilipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany
  7. 7.Faculty of ForestryTechnical University in ZvolenZvolenSlovakia
  8. 8.Department of Conservation Biology Vegetation and Landscape EcologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  9. 9.Vienna Institute for Nature Conservation and AnalysesViennaAustria
  10. 10.Land Use DynamicsSwiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  11. 11.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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