Send to

Choose Destination
Sci Adv. 2017 May 17;3(5):e1603055. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1603055. eCollection 2017 May.

Divergence of species responses to climate change.

Author information

Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
Purdue Climate Change Research Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Southern Research Station, Knoxville, TN 37919, USA.
Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, TN 37996, USA.


Climate change can have profound impacts on biodiversity and the sustainability of many ecosystems. Various studies have investigated the impacts of climate change, but large-scale, trait-specific impacts are less understood. We analyze abundance data over time for 86 tree species/groups across the eastern United States spanning the last three decades. We show that more tree species have experienced a westward shift (73%) than a poleward shift (62%) in their abundance, a trend that is stronger for saplings than adult trees. The observed shifts are primarily due to the changes of subpopulation abundances in the leading edges and are significantly associated with changes in moisture availability and successional processes. These spatial shifts are associated with species that have similar traits (drought tolerance, wood density, and seed weight) and evolutionary histories (most angiosperms shifted westward and most gymnosperms shifted poleward). Our results indicate that changes in moisture availability have stronger near-term impacts on vegetation dynamics than changes in temperature. The divergent responses to climate change by trait- and phylogenetic-specific groups could lead to changes in composition of forest ecosystems, putting the resilience and sustainability of various forest ecosystems in question.


abundance; climate change; drought; forest ecosystem; functional traits; phylogeny; range shift; successsion

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center