Effects of climate change on the potential distribution of a dominant, widely distributed oak species, Quercus candicans, in Mexico

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Diego Brizuela-Torres
Raymundo Villavicencio-García
José Ariel Ruiz-Corral
Angela P. Cuervo-Robayo


Mexican temperate forests are among the most biodiverse in the world. At present, they face anthropogenic pressures and climatic changes. Quercus candicans is a canopy-dominant, widely distributed species common in the moist habitats of these ecosystems. Its ecological importance, habitat vulnerability, and wide distribution make it a useful model of the vulnerability of Mexican tree forest species to climate change. We used ecological niche modeling to estimate future climatic suitability for this species and its potential range shifts under two emissions scenarios and three-time frames. We also identified areas where novel climates could arise and where predictions should be interpreted cautiously. Additionally, we analyzed how climatic suitability could change across the national protected areas system. In both emissions scenarios, areas with suitable climatic conditions were predicted to experience a net reduction of more than 40% by 2070. This corresponds to more than 100 000 km2 becoming climatically unsuitable. In the national protected areas, we forecast a contraction of approximately 30%. Climatic novelty increased considerably in the higher emissions scenario (RCP 8.5), accounting for 10% of the Mexican temperate mountains, compared to 1% on RCP 4.5. Areas of expansion of suitability not intersected by novel climates occur in areas highly affected by land-use change and other anthropogenic pressures. Effective protection of temperate forests’ tree species such as Q. candicans would need to allow migrations across altitudinal gradients, as areas of stability and expansion of climatic suitability are forecasted to occur at higher altitude sections of mountain ranges.


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