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Climate change will affect the abundance of common boreal plants


A recently published study predicts that understory species of boreal forests will migrate northwards, following the pace of global change. Southern species may become abundant in regions where they were rare before, while northern species may see their populations reduced in the absence of further northern regions to escape to from warming climate.

A study published in the scientific journal Ecography predicts the fate of 25 common understory plants in Finland for the upcoming decades. Fifteen species from dwarf shrubs, herbs and grasses to bryophytes and lichens showed a significant response to temperature and were predicted to shift distribution northward 6-8 km/year. This means a total move of ca. 460 km (range: 49–607 km) northwards from 1985 to 2041–2070. Yet the abundance of other ten species seems not to be affected by temperature, so they will probably not suffer the effects of global warming.

”Some species that are currently distributed in southern Finland will potentially reach northern regions where they were rare in the 1980’s. This is the case of the grass Calamagrostis arundinacea, the false lily of the valley Maianthemum bifolium, the arctic starflower Trientalis europaea and the moss Dicranum polysetum,” says Dr. Sara Villen-Perez, an author of the current study. MORE

Header image: Research results related to Maianthemum bifolium (false lily of the valley) and a couple of individuals of the species found in the field in southern Finland. Credit: Sara Villén-Pérez.

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