Seed mass predicts migration lag of European trees
We reanalysed a dataset of tree distribution ranges in Europe to identify which plant traits best explain migration potential in woody species. Contrary to our intuition that tree longevity would best explain the ability of trees to migrate, we found that seed biomass was the only good descriptor of migration potential: trees with heavier seeds lag more.
To cope with global warming, the majority of plants have either to migrate polewards or risk extinction. This is why conservationists value predictive models that can flag plant species that may not keep pace with global warming.
To identify which plant traits best explain migration potential in woody species by reanalysing a dataset of tree distribution ranges in Europe.
We used two statistical approaches to quantify migration lag. A direct approach compared frequency of large trees in the two latitudinal extremes and a modelling approach in which we first corrected data for the influence of temperature and then assessed the influence of latitude over the entire distribution of the tree species.
Contrary to our intuition that tree longevity would best explain the ability of trees to migrate, we found that seed mass was the only good descriptor of migration potential: trees with heavier seeds lag more.
We interpret our results in terms of the well-established trade-off between seed mass and seed production in spermatophytes and discuss the possible functional implications that will result from selectively losing large-seeded trees. In summary, we provide an empirical study on how woody communities will respond to global warming over the next years.
KeywordsClimate change Seed dispersal Extinction debt Forest ecology Global warming Plant migration
We would like to thank Matthias Rillig for comments to an earlier draft of the manuscript as well as Laurent Bergès, Jonathan Lenoir and three anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism during the reviewing process.
SDV conceived the study and did the analysis. Both authors wrote the article and approved the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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