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Vulnerable taxa of European Plecoptera (Insecta) in the context of climate change


We evaluated 516 species and/or subspecies of European stoneflies for vulnerability to climate change according to autoecological data. The variables considered were stream zonation preference, altitude preference, current preference, temperature range preference, endemism and rare species. Presence in ecoregions was used to analyse the vulnerability of taxa in relation to their distribution. We selected the variables that provided information on vulnerability to change in climate. Thus, we chose strictly crenal taxa, high-altitude taxa, rheobionts, cold stenotherm taxa, micro-endemic taxa and rare taxa. Our analysis showed that at least 324 taxa (62.79%) can be included in one or more categories of vulnerability to climate change. Of these, 43 taxa would be included in three or more vulnerability categories, representing the most threatened taxa. The most threatened species and the main factors affecting their distribution are discussed. Endangered potamal species, with populations that have decreased mainly as a consequence of habitat alteration, also could suffer from the effects of climate change. Thus, the total number of taxa at risk is particularly high. Not only are a great diversity of European stoneflies concentrated in the Alps, Pyrenees and Iberian Peninsula, but so are the most vulnerable taxa. These places are likely to be greatly affected by climate change according to climate models. In general, an impoverishment of European Plecoptera taxa will probably occur as a consequence of climate change, and only taxa with wide tolerance ranges will increase in abundance, resulting in lower overall faunal diversity.

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The authors want to thank to all the experts that have provided the ecological data used in the development of the Plecoptera database and to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments that greatly improved the original manuscript. This study was supported by the EU-funded Integrated Project Euro-limpacs (GOCE-CT-2003-505540), Workpackage 7 (Indicators of Ecosystem Health).

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Correspondence to J. M. Tierno de Figueroa.

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Tierno de Figueroa, J.M., López-Rodríguez, M.J., Lorenz, A. et al. Vulnerable taxa of European Plecoptera (Insecta) in the context of climate change. Biodivers Conserv 19, 1269–1277 (2010).

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  • Stoneflies
  • Vulnerability
  • Threatened taxa
  • Global change
  • Climate models
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Europe