Patterns of rain forest plant endemism in subtropical Australia relate to stable mesic refugia and species dispersal limitations

Weber, Lui C., VanDerWal, Jeremy, Schmidt, Susanne, McDonald, William J.F., and Shoo, Luke P. (2014) Patterns of rain forest plant endemism in subtropical Australia relate to stable mesic refugia and species dispersal limitations. Journal of Biogeography, 41 (2). pp. 222-238.

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Aim: Our aims were to identify centres of endemism and to infer whether these areas have functioned as refugia for subtropical rain forest plants through historical climate fluctuations.

Location: Subtropical eastern Australia (23-33 degrees S; 145-155 degrees E).

Methods: We collated 25,000 records of 179 endemic rain forest plants to identify geographical areas with unusually high concentrations of endemic taxa and range-restricted endemics. We then tested whether centres of endemism coincide with other features indicating refugia, including habitat stability over 120,000 years, and we related dispersal patterns to past habitat stability using seed weight as a surrogate for dispersal ability of endemic plant taxa.

Results: We identified five main centres of endemism. Historical stability and other processes affecting diversity, including current rainfall, rain forest area, and topographic complexity, explained 58% of variation in plant-weighted endemism. Taxa with poor dispersal ability were concentrated in the areas that were most stable historically.

Main conclusions: Several lines of evidence suggest that centres of endemism have functioned as important refugia for subtropical rain forest taxa through historical climate fluctuations. The highest concentrations of range-restricted endemic species occur in locations that are predicted to have maintained stable rain forest habitat over at least the past 120,000 years. This association was independent from other factors that were expected to promote diversity (i.e. rain forest area and current environmental suitability). These locations have disproportionately high concentrations of species with poor dispersal ability (large-seeded species).

Item ID: 32955
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2699
Keywords: adaptation, biogeography, centres of endemism, climate change, conservation, Eastern Australia, refugia, rain forest, seed dispersal, subtropical rain forest
Funders: National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), South East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative (SEQCARI)
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:31
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060306 Evolutionary Impacts of Climate Change @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
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