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Post-Glacial Spatial Dynamics in a Rainforest Biodiversity Hot Spot

Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
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  • Altitudinal Range Shift
  • Cool Temperate Rainforest
  • <I>Elaeocarpus</I> <I>Grandis</I>
  • Mtwarning Caldera
  • <I>Nothofagus</I> <I>Moorei</I>
  • Post-Glacial Warming
  • Warm Subtropical Rainforest
  • Ecology


Here we investigate the interaction between ecology and climate concerning the distribution of rainforest species differentially distributed along altitudinal gradients of eastern Australia. The potential distributions of the two species closely associated with different rainforest types were modelled to infer the potential contribution of post-glacial warming on spatial distribution and altitudinal range shift. Nothofagus moorei is an integral element of cool temperate rainforest, including cloud forests at high elevation. This distinct climatic envelope is at increased risk with future global warming. Elaeocarpus grandis on the other hand is a lowland species and typical element of subtropical rainforest occupying a climatic envelope that may shift upwards into areas currently occupied by N. moorei. Climate envelope models were used to infer range shift differences between the two species in the past (21 thousand years ago), current and future (2050) scenarios, and to provide a framework to explain observed genetic diversity/structure of both species. The models suggest continuing contraction of the highland cool temperate climatic envelope and expansion of the lowland warm subtropical envelope, with both showing a core average increase in elevation in response to post-glacial warming. Spatial and altitudinal overlap between the species climatic envelopes was at a maximum during the last glacial maximum and is predicted to be a minimum at 2050.

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