Plant ecology as an indicator of climate and global change

Morecroft, Michael, and Keith, Sally (2009) Plant ecology as an indicator of climate and global change. In: Letcher, Trevor M., (ed.) Climate Change: observed impacts on planet Earth. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 297-305.

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The distribution of types of vegetation around the world is clearly related to climate. Different combinations of temperature, rainfall and seasonality produce the global variety of biomes, from rainforest to tundra, which we take for granted. At a finer scale we can see changes in vegetation with more localised changes in climate such as on a mountain as conditions become cooler with altitude. Individual species also have distribution patterns, the boundaries of which are largely defined by climate at a global scale. These distribution patterns reflect the influence of climate on plant survival, physiology and growth, together with climatic effects on ecological interactions, such as competition, pollination and herbivory. Different types of plant are adapted to different climatic conditions, from cold-tolerant, but slow-growing alpine plants, to fast-growing trees in the wet tropics.

It is therefore reasonable to expect that changes in climate would lead to a change in species distributions and community composition. Evidence of such changes has been accumulating in recent decades. However, before we come to evaluate this evidence, we should consider some general principles.

Item ID: 15439
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-444-53301-2
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 06:06
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 80%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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