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Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Dec;24(12):694-701. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.06.007. Epub 2009 Aug 18.

The altitude-for-latitude disparity in the range retractions of woody species.

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School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK.


Increasing temperatures are driving rapid upward range shifts of species in mountains. An altitudinal range retreat of 10 m is predicted to translate into a approximately 10-km latitudinal retreat based on the rate at which temperatures decline with increasing altitude and latitude, yet reports of latitudinal range retractions are sparse. Here, we examine potential climatic, biological, anthropogenic and methodological explanations for this disparity. We argue that the lack of reported latitudinal range retractions stems more from a lack of research effort, compounded by methodological difficulties, rather than from their absence. Given the predicted negative impacts of increasing temperatures on wide areas of the latitudinal distributions of species, the investigation of range retractions should become a priority in biogeographical research.

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