J Syst Evol

• Letter to the Editor •    

Ability of bryophytes to track areas of suitable climate depends on their habitat preferences

Zun Dai1, Jian Zhang2, and Jian Wang1*   

  1. 1 Bryology Laboratory, School of Life Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2 Research Center for Global Change and Complex Ecosystems, School of Ecological and Environmental Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2021-04-07 Accepted:2022-01-18 Online:2022-03-03


The impact of climate change on biodiversity operates through a complex mixture of habitat loss and range shift through the emergence of newly suitable areas (Warren et al., 2013). The main question is therefore to determine whether species have the ability to balance the loss of suitable habitats by effectively shifting their ranges and track suitable areas under climate change (Nogués-Bravo et al., 2018). Zanatta et al. (2020) most recently simulated the dispersal of apparently extremely efficient dispersers, namely bryophytes, whose tiny spores (<20 µm on average) are wind-dispersed across large distances, under several climate change scenarios. They concluded that, despite their high dispersal capacities, bryophytes will lose suitable areas at a faster rate than they will colonize newly suitable areas. Paradoxically, mounting evidence points to striking range expansions in epiphytic floras in the context of the sharp decrease of SO2 concentrations since the 1980s and climate warming (Tuba et al., 2011). Here, we addressed this apparent controversy by reassessing the results of Zanatta et al. (2020) in the light of the repartitioning of the data per habitat type.

We compared the median ratios between the predicted rates of range loss and gain reported by Zanatta et al. (2020) for 40 selected bryophyte species in 2050, reanalyzing the results when the species are assigned to three main habitat types, namely epiphytes, saxicolous, and ground-dwelling habitats, based on Hill et al. (2007). This analysis reveals that habitat preferences of bryophyte species have a clear impact on the ratios of range loss versus expansion, whose median ranged, for the RCP (representative concentration pathway) 4.5 scenario under the MPI-ESM-LR (the low resolution version of Max-Planck-Institute Earth system model) Global Circulation Model, from 52.53 for ground-dwelling bryophytes to 30.28 for saxicolous bryophytes and 28.27 for epiphytic bryophytes (Fig. 1). Similar trends were observed for the RCP8.5 scenario and for both scenarios under the HadGem2-ES Global Circulation Model.