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Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Plant Ecosystems Across Time and Space

A BECC Action Group

In the proposed Action Group (AG) we will bring together scientists from different disciplines to write a paper that synthesizes knowledge on how terrestrial plants and ecosystems respond to climate change at different temporal and spatial scales. 

The AG will include researchers with expertise in the following main areas:

  • Responses to previous periods of climate change (e.g. evolutionary ecology, phylogeny, biogeography, paleobotany)
  • Responses to contemporary climate change (e.g. observational and experimental ecology and ecophysiology)
  • Responses to future climate change (e.g. ecosystem and vegetation modelling, experimental ecology)

Projections of climate change impacts on vegetation, as well as the feedbacks of these impacts on the rate and magnitude of ongoing climate change, are made by vegetation and ecosystem models incorporated into global climate models. These vegetation and ecosystem models rely heavily on eco(physio)logical knowledge on how plant functioning and structure are affected by manipulations in environmental conditions (CO2, temperature, water availability etc) in rather small-scale (plots with ≤30 m) and short-term (<15 years) experiments. However, scientific information on how plants and ecosystems respond at larger spatial and longer temporal scales have been little consulted this far, but may have great potential to further evaluate and develop current state-of-the-art ecosystem and vegetation models. In particular, knowledge on plant responses to previous periods of climate change is rarely used to evaluate projections of future responses. This is to some extent understandable given the considerably slower speed of changes in climate in the past, but it is also unfortunate because knowledge on past responses provides information on how climate change may impact on ecosystems and biodiversity not only through direct effects on plant and ecosystem functioning (as studied in field experiments) but also through longer-term shifts in the competitive balance among species, migration and evolutionary adaptation. Another source of variation to inform ecosystem models which has been used fairly little this far is the growing body of large-scale and long-term datasets on ecosystem processes (e.g. productivity, demography, runoff etc) and biodiversity.
The deliverable of this AG is to produce a paper to be submitted to a high impact journal (e.g. Nature Geosciences, Nature Climate Change, Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution).


Alexandre Antonelli, University of Gothenburg
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
personal webpage Alexandre Antonelli

Johan Uddling, University of Gothenburg
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
personal webpage Johan Uddling