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Unravelling the effects of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproduction of forest herbs

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To investigate the effect of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproductive traits of widespread perennial forest herbs to better understand the potential impacts of rising temperatures on their population dynamics and colonization capacities. Location 

Six regions along a latitudinal gradient from France to Sweden. Methods 

Within each region, we collected data from three to five populations of up to six species. For each species, several variables were recorded in each region (temperature, latitude) and population (local abiotic and biotic environmental variables), and seed production and germination were estimated. Resource investment in reproduction (RIR) was quantified as seed number × seed mass, while germinable seed output (GSO) was expressed as seed number × germination percentage. We performed linear regression and mixed effect models to investigate the effects of temperature (growing degree hours), latitude and local abiotic and biotic environment on RIR and GSO. Results 

Temperature and latitude explained most of the variation in RIR and GSO for early flowering species with a northerly distribution range edge (Anemone nemorosa, Paris quadrifolia and Oxalis acetosella). Reproduction of the more southerly distributed species (Brachypodium sylvaticum, Circaea lutetiana and Primula elatior), in contrast, was independent of temperature/latitude. In the late summer species, B. sylvaticum and C. lutetiana, variation in RIR and GSO was best explained by local environmental variables, while none of the investigated variables appeared to be related to reproduction in P. elatior. Main conclusions 

We showed that reproduction of only two early flowering, northerly distributed species was related to temperature. This suggests that the potential reproductive response of forest herbs to climate warming partly depends on their phenology and distribution, but also that the response is to some extent species dependent. These findings should be taken into account when predictions about future shifts in distribution range are made.
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Keywords: Climate change; Europe; herbaceous forest species; latitudinal gradient; reproduction; seeds; temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology FB2, University of Bremen, Leobener Str. D-28359 Bremen, Germany, 2: Laboratory of Forestry, Ghent University, Geraardbergsesteenweg 267, B-9090 Melle-Gontrode, Belgium, 3: Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 49, 230 53 Alnarp, Sweden, 4: Plant Biodiversity Lab, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, 1 Rue des Louvels, F-80037 Amiens Cedex, France, 5: Department of Botany, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, 6: Biodiversity Systematic Botany, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany, 7: Division Forest, Nature and Landscape, K.U. Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium, 8: Department of Botany, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai Str.40, Tartu 51005, Estonia, 9: Division of Plant Ecology and Systematics, K.U. Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium, 10: Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Gaverstraat 4, B-9500 Geraardsbergen, Belgium, 11: Climate Impacts Research Centre, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, Box 62, SE-98107 Abisko, Sweden

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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