A new method for broad-scale modeling and projection of plant assemblages under climatic, biotic, and environmental cofiltering.
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There is increasing interest in broad-scale analysis, modeling, and prediction of the distribution and composition of plant species assemblages under climatic, environmental, and biotic filtering, particularly for conservation purposes. We devised a method (broad-scale analysis & modeling of plant assemblages under climatic-biotic-environmental co-filtering, BAM-PACC) for reliably predicting the impact of climate change on arbitrarily large assemblages of plant communities, while also considering competing biotic and abiotic factors. When applied to a large set of plant communities in the Swiss Alps, BAM-PACC explained presences/absences of 175 plant species in 608 plots with >87% cross-validated accuracy, predicted decreases in α, β, and γ diversity by 2040 under both moderate and extreme climate scenarios, and identified plant species likely to be favored/disfavored by climate change. BAM-PACC also revealed the importance of topography and soil in determining the distribution of plant species and their response to climate change, and showed the overriding importance of temperature extremes rather than averages. BAM-PACC was able to address a number of challenging research problems, such as scaling to large numbers of species, exploiting species relationships, dealing with species rarity, and overwhelming proportion of absences in the presence/absence matrix. By handling hundreds/thousands of plants and plots simultaneously over large areas, BAM-PACC can help broad-scale conservation of plant species under climate change, as it allows species that require urgent conservation planning and policies (assisted migration, seed conservation, ex-situ conservation) to be detected and prioritized. BAM-PACC can also increase the practicality of assisted colonization of plant species, by helping to prevent ill-advised introduction of plant species with limited future survival probability in a certain area. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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