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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 4;105(44):17029-33. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806446105. Epub 2008 Oct 27.

Phylogenetic patterns of species loss in Thoreau's woods are driven by climate change.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University Herbaria, 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Climate change has led to major changes in the phenology (the timing of seasonal activities, such as flowering) of some species but not others. The extent to which flowering-time response to temperature is shared among closely related species might have important consequences for community-wide patterns of species loss under rapid climate change. Henry David Thoreau initiated a dataset of the Concord, Massachusetts, flora that spans approximately 150 years and provides information on changes in species abundance and flowering time. When these data are analyzed in a phylogenetic context, they indicate that change in abundance is strongly correlated with flowering-time response. Species that do not respond to temperature have decreased greatly in abundance, and include among others anemones and buttercups [Ranunculaceae pro parte (p.p.)], asters and campanulas (Asterales), bluets (Rubiaceae p.p.), bladderworts (Lentibulariaceae), dogwoods (Cornaceae), lilies (Liliales), mints (Lamiaceae p.p.), orchids (Orchidaceae), roses (Rosaceae p.p.), saxifrages (Saxifragales), and violets (Malpighiales). Because flowering-time response traits are shared among closely related species, our findings suggest that climate change has affected and will likely continue to shape the phylogenetically biased pattern of species loss in Thoreau's woods.

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