Some Like It Hot: Are Desert Plants Indifferent to Climate Change?

  • Katja TielbörgerEmail author
  • Roberto Salguero-Gómez
Part of the Progress in Botany book series (BOTANY, volume 75)


Deserts rank at the forefront of vulnerability to global change because their biota is expected to encounter large climatic changes while apparently existing at biological limits. We review the available evidence for climate change effects on arid lands, and specifically on vegetation because as primary producers, plants are main providers of ecosystem services. We summarize field experiments and correlative evidence from spatial and temporal climatic gradients. Surprisingly, only few climate manipulation experiments have been conducted in semideserts, none in arid regions, and almost none in cold drylands. We argue that correlative approaches do not yield the necessary knowledge to understand and thus mitigate potential changes due to their oversight of long-term evolutionary processes. Nonetheless, the limited mechanistic evidence suggests a surprisingly high resilience of desert vegetation to changes in precipitation and CO2. We suggest this resilience is due to specific adaptations that have evolved in response to stressful and highly variable climatic conditions.


Plant Community Arid Land Arid Ecosystem Desert Plant Sonoran Desert 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are indebted to J. Metz for providing unpublished data on plant diversity along an aridity gradient in Israel. K.T. acknowledges support from the GLOWA Jordan River project, funded by the German Ministry of Science and Education (BMBF), as well as additional funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG; TI338_11-1, and TI338_12-1). R.S.-G acknowledges support from the Evolutionary Biodemography Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Ecology GroupUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Evolutionary Biodemography LaboratoryMax Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany
  3. 3.Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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