Latitude or altitude may save us?

New study suggests mountains, not just higher latitudes, could be vital for Eastern Mediterranean forests facing climate change. Research predicts forest composition shifts and highlights mountain ranges as potential havens for future trees.

Photo: Bikem Ekberzade

A second article in a planned series of three reports the results of ongoing research on the potential effects of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems (forests), in the Eastern Mediterranean region, for this century. Published in Wiley’s Ecology and Evolution this month, “Latitude or altitude as the future refugium? A case for the future of forests in Asia Minor and its surroundings” focusses primarily on the Anatolian Peninsula and its immediate surroundings to the east, north and south.

Researchers simulated the potential forest ranges and the distribution of taxa based on potential changes in disturbance cycles, and competition for resources under a changing climate by means of a process-based model LPJ-GUESS from 1961, until 2100. They ran 140-year simulations using high resolution climate datasets from the global climate models, contributions to the sixth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, and SSP5-8.5 scenario for high emissions. The simulations highlighted a prioritization of woody taxa for altitude rather than latitude as a primary migratory route under a warming and drying world. The mountain ranges in the simulations stood out as critical “islands” which the boreal taxa preferred to gather around, and a few massifs within the study area stood out as potential ecological refugia, reminding the importance of these ranges for this region under a changing climate.

Photo: Bikem Ekberzade

There are two further important take home messages from the simulation results. Despite climate change, there is still a high potential for forests in the study area, but a potential shift in their composition to accommodate taxa that are adapted to a warmer and drier climate should be expected. Secondly, no regional extinctions among the 25 woody taxa simulated are expected by the end of this century, however important changes in areal dominance within forest ranges can be observed, highlighting the individual strategies of taxa for survival.

In this paper, researchers are also reporting on the bioclimatic tolerance levels of two additional taxa which they included in their simulations, and which can be used by scientists and researchers in future projects.

Read the paper

Read the first article in the series

SOURCEBikem Ekberzade
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Bikem Ekberzade
Bikem Ekberzade’s research focuses on the responses of different ecosystems to external pressures and disturbances. Currently, Bikem is focusing on forests and how their composition and their distribution is affected by shifts in climatic variables. Through a process based dynamic vegetation model and a combination of field visits, empirical datasets, and climate models, Bikem is defining bioclimatic thresholds of additional key woody taxa covering primarily the Eastern Mediterranean Basin.