J Syst Evol ›› 2024, Vol. 62 ›› Issue (2): 275-290.DOI: 10.1111/jse.13048

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The ghost of past climate acting on present-day plant diversity: Lessons from a climate-based delimitation of the tropical alpine ecosystem

Martha Kandziora1*, Juan M. Gorospe1,2, Luciana Salomon1, Diana L. A. Vásquez2, Maria Pinilla Vargas1, Filip Kolář1,2, Petr Sklenář1, and Roswitha Schmickl1,2   

  1. 1 Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Benátská 2, 128 01 Prague, Czech Republic;
    2 Institute of Botany, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Zámek 1, 252 43 Průhonice, Czech Republic
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:kandziom@natur.cuni.cz
  • Received:2023-07-25 Accepted:2023-12-04 Online:2024-01-23 Published:2024-03-01

Abstract: Habitat stability is important for maintaining biodiversity by preventing species extinction, but this stability is being challenged by climate change. The tropical alpine ecosystem is currently one of the ecosystems most threatened by global warming, and the flora close to the permanent snow line is at high risk of extinction. The tropical alpine ecosystem, found in South and Central America, Malesia and Papuasia, Africa, and Hawaii, is of relatively young evolutionary age, and it has been exposed to changing climates since its origin, particularly during the Pleistocene. Estimating habitat loss and gain between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and the present allows us to relate current biodiversity to past changes in climate and habitat stability. In order to do so, (i) we developed a unifying climate-based delimitation of tropical alpine regions across continents, and (ii) we used this delimitation to assess the degree of habitat stability, that is, the overlap of suitable areas between the LGM and the present, in different tropical alpine regions. Finally, we discuss the link between habitat stability and tropical alpine plant diversity. Our climate-based delimitation approach can be easily applied to other ecosystems using our developed code, facilitating macro-comparative studies of habitat dynamics through time.

Key words: extinction risk, habitat dynamics, Last Glacial Maximum, plant diversity, refugia, tropical alpine