Different temporal trends in vascular plant and bryophytes communities along elevational gradients over four decades of warming [article]

Antoine Becker-Scarpitta, Diane Auberson-Lavoie, Mark Vellend
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Despite many studies showing biodiversity responses to warming, the generality of such responses across taxa remains unclear. Very few studies have tested for evidence of bryophyte community responses to warming, despite the fact that bryophytes are major contributors to diversity in many ecosystems, playing a central role in ecosystem functions. Understanding variation among taxa in their responses to warming is crucial for identifying priorities in conservation. We report an empirical study
more » ... mparing long-term change of bryophyte and vascular plant communities in two sites with contrasting long-term warming trends. To assess long-term responses of ecological communities to warming, we used legacy botanical records as a baseline for comparison with contemporary resurveys. We hypothesized that ecological changes would be greater in sites with a stronger warming trends, and that vascular plant communities would be more sensitive than bryophyte communities to climate warming. For each taxon in each site, we quantified the magnitude of changes in species distributions along the elevation gradient, species richness, and community composition. Temporal changes in vascular plant communities were consistent with the warming hypothesis, but this was not the case for bryophytes. We also did not find clear support for the hypothesis that vascular plants would show greater sensitivity than bryophytes to warming, with results depending on the metric of community change. As predicted for sites with a strong warming trend, we found a significant upward shift in the distributions of vascular plants but not bryophytes. Synthesis: Our results are in accordance with recent literature showing that local diversity can remain unchanged despite strong changes in composition. Regardless of whether one taxon is systematically more or less sensitive to environmental change than another, our results suggest that vascular plants cannot be used as a surrogate for bryophytes in terms of predicting the nature and magnitude of responses to warming. In sites that experienced the same environmental changes, we found that communities of bryophytes and vascular plants did not predictably change in the same ways. Thus, to assess overall biodiversity responses to global change, data from different taxonomical groups and community properties need to be synthesized.
doi:10.1101/2020.03.17.994814 fatcat:yv6aylytxvbwll4jafjqcrnrla