Forest undergrowth plants are tightly connected with the shady and humid conditions that occur under the canopy of tropical forests. However, projected climatic changes, such as decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature, negatively affect understory environments by promoting light‐demanding and drought‐tolerant species. Therefore, we aimed to quantify the influence of climate change on the spatial distribution of three selected forest undergrowth plants, Dracaena Vand. ex L. species, D. afromontana Mildbr., D. camerooniana Baker, and D. surculosa Lindl., simultaneously creating the most comprehensive location database for these species to date.
A total of 1,223 herbarium records originating from tropical Africa and derived from 93 herbarium collections worldwide have been gathered, validated, and entered into a database. Species‐specific Maxent species distribution models (SDMs) based on 11 bioclimatic variables from the WorldClim database were developed for the species. HadGEM2‐ES projections of bioclimatic variables in two contrasting representative concentration pathways (RCPs), RCP2.6 and RCP8.5, were used to quantify the changes in future potential species distribution.
D. afromontana is mostly sensitive to temperature in the wettest month, and its potential geographical range is predicted to decrease (up to −63.7% at RCP8.5). Optimum conditions for D. camerooniana are low diurnal temperature range (6–8°C) and precipitation in the wettest season exceeding 750 mm. The extent of this species will also decrease, but not as drastically as that of D. afromontana. D. surculosa prefers high precipitation in the coldest months. Its potential habitat area is predicted to increase in the future and to expand toward the east.
This study developed SDMs and estimated current and future (year 2050) potential distributions of the forest undergrowth Dracaena species. D. afromontana, naturally associated with mountainous plant communities, was the most sensitive to predicted climate warming. In contrast, D. surculosa was predicted to extend its geographical range, regardless of the climate change scenario.
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- Resource type
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Journal title
Ecology and Evolution
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