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Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. (2019)

Plant species climatic niche and its relationship with population responses to extreme drought

Pérez Navarro, Maria Ángeles

Titre : Plant species climatic niche and its relationship with population responses to extreme drought

Auteur : Pérez Navarro, Maria Ángeles

Université de soutenance : Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Grade : Doctorado en Ecologia Terrestre 2019

Understanding how climate affects species’ distribution and performance is a central issue in ecology since its origins. In last decades, however, the interest in this question has been reactivated by the current context of climate change. Species Niche Modelling has been widely used to assess shifts in species distribution and to test the relationship between species’ climatic niche and species physiological and demographic performance. Nevertheless it is still largely undetermined whether these models can portray population and community responses, particularly in relation to extreme climatic episodes. In this thesis I aim at exploring the capacity of niche modelling to predict species decay under extreme climatic conditions, particularly droughts, addressing some constraints of this approach and proposing possible solutions. To achieve this goal, I counted with 3 vegetation decay datasets measured in the Spanish SE after the extreme drought year 2013-2014. In the second chapter I used different Species Distribution Model (SDMs) algorithms to estimate species’ climatic suitability before (1950-2000) and during the extreme drought, in order to test the possible correlation between suitability and decay, and whether the existence of this relationship depended on the applied SDM algorithm. I consistently found a positive correlation between remaining green canopy and species’ climatic suitability before the event, suggesting that populations historically living closer to their species’ tolerance limits are more vulnerable to drought. Contrastingly, decreased climatic suitability during the drought period did not correlate with remaining green canopy, likely because of extremely low climatic suitability values achieved during the exceptional climatic episode. In order to test whether this extremely low suitability values could derive as a consequence of only considering climatic averages when calibrating SDMs, in the thired chapter I developed a method to include inter-annual climatic variability into niche characterization. I then compared the respective capacities of climatic suitabilities obtained from averaged-based and from inter-annual variability-based niches to explain demographic responses to extreme climatic events. I found that climatic suitability obtained from both niches quantifications significantly explained species demographic responses. However, climatic suitability from inter-annual variability-based niches showed higher explanatory capacity, especially for populations that tend to be more geographically marginal. In the fourth chapter I tried to overcome the inability of the SDMs to predict populations decay during extreme conditions, by using Euclidean distances to species’ niche in the environmental space. I compared the capacities of both population distances in the climatic environmental space and population climatic suitability derived from SDMs to explain population observed demographic responses to an extreme event. I found that SDMs-derived suitability failed to explain population decay while distances to the niche centroid and limit significantly explained population die-off, highlighting that population displaced farther from species’ niche during the extreme episode showed higher vulnerability to drought. In the fifth chapter, I used species niche characterizations in the environmental space and demographic data to address the impact of extreme events at community level. Particularly, I estimated the community climatic disequilibrium before and after a drought episode. I found that extreme drought nested within a decadal trend of increasingly aridity led to a reduction in community climatic disequilibrium.

Mots Clés  : Nínxol climàtic ; Nicho climático ; Climatic niche ; Models de distribució d’espècies ; Modelos de distribución de especies ; Species distribution models ; Sequera extrema ; Sequía extrema ; Extreme drought

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Page publiée le 11 février 2021