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Prediction of upslope movement of Rhododendron arboreum in Western Himalaya


Climate change poses significant challenges to distribution of plant species. Rhododendron arboreum is considered as a keystone species between subalpine and the alpine regions. In the present study, we predict its future distribution in the Indian part of Western Himalaya by employing two species distribution modelling techniques. We used five least correlated climate variables: mean diurnal temperature range, annual mean temperature, annual precipitation, precipitation of driest quarter and precipitation seasonality to predict the potential distribution of R. arboreum for the current condition. We subtracted the current distribution from projected maps of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 6.0 scenarios for the year 2070 to quantify the magnitude and direction of range shift of the species in the future environment. Rhododendron arboreum is predicted to shift its distribution towards higher elevations more prominently in case of RCP 6.0. The species is likely to be influenced by annual precipitation for its distribution during current to future climate change scenarios. The study predicts upslope movement of R. arboreum in response to climate change impacts, where topography could play a significant role. Prediction of distribution pattern of R. arboreum highlights the need to take up future works focussing on development of a robust approach towards integrating genomic, environmental, climate and conservation information for predictive modelling of R. arboreum in its home range in the entire Indian Himalayas.

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The plant species data utilised in the study acquired from a National level project on ‘Biodiversity characterisation at landscape level’ is thankfully acknowledged. We thank Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi for providing financial support in form of a Research grant to carry out the study.

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Correspondence to Mukunda D. Behera.

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Veera, S.N.S., Panda, R.M., Behera, M.D. et al. Prediction of upslope movement of Rhododendron arboreum in Western Himalaya. Trop Ecol 60, 518–524 (2019).

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  • Climate change
  • High mountain species
  • Maximum entropy
  • Random forest