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Ecology. 2007 Sep;88(9):2280-91.

Process-based modeling of species' distributions: what limits temperate tree species' range boundaries?

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Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Equipe BIOFLUX, CNRS, 1919, route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


Niche-based models are widely used to understand what environmental factors determine species' distributions, but they do not provide a clear framework to study the processes involved in defining species' ranges. Here we used a process-based model to identify these processes and to assess the potential distribution of 17 North American boreal/temperate tree species. Using input of only climate and soil properties, the model reproduced the 17 species' distributions accurately. Our results allowed us to identify the climatic factors as well as the biological processes involved in limiting species' ranges. The model showed that climatic constraints limit species' distributions mainly through their impact on phenological processes, and secondarily through their impact on drought and frost mortality. The northern limit of species' ranges appears to be caused mainly by the inability to undergo full fruit ripening and/or flowering, while the southern limit is caused by the inability to flower or by frost injury to flowers. These findings about the ecological processes shaping tree species' distribution represent a crucial step toward obtaining a more complete picture of the potential impact of climate on species' ranges.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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