Changement climatique - Recherche française (avec laboratoires CNRS) - 2010-2015


Ecological niche shifts of understorey plants along a latitudinal gradient of temperate forests in north-western Europe

Publication Year


  • Wasof, Safaa
  • Lenoir, Jonathan
  • Gallet-Moron, Emilie
  • Jamoneau, Aurelien
  • Brunet, Jorg
  • Cousins, Sara A. O.
  • De Frenne, Pieter
  • Diekmann, Martin
  • Hermy, Martin
  • Kolb, Annette
  • Liira, Jaan
  • Verheyen, Kris
  • Wulf, Monika
  • Decocq, Guillaume
GLOBAL ECOLOGY AND BIOGEOGRAPHY Volume: 22 Issue: 10 Pages: 1130-1140 Published: 2013

Aim In response to environmental changes and to avoid extinction, species may either track suitable environmental conditions or adapt to the modified environment. However, whether and how species adapt to environmental changes remains unclear. By focusing on the realized niche (i.e. the actual space that a species inhabits and the resources it can access as a result of limiting biotic factors present in its habitat), we here examine shifts in the realized-niche width (i.e. ecological amplitude) and position (i.e. ecological optimum) of 26 common and widespread forest understorey plants across their distributional ranges. Location Temperate forests along a ca. 1800-km-long latitudinal gradient from northern France to central Sweden and Estonia. Methods We derived species' realized-niche width from a -diversity metric, which increases if the focal species co-occurs with more species. Based on the concept that species' scores in a detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) represent the locations of their realized-niche positions, we developed a novel approach to run species-specific DCAs allowing the focal species to shift its realized-niche position along the studied latitudinal gradient while the realized-niche positions of other species were held constant. Results None of the 26 species maintained both their realized-niche width and position along the latitudinal gradient. Few species (9 of 26: 35%) shifted their realized-niche width, but all shifted their realized-niche position. With increasing latitude, most species (22 of 26: 85%) shifted their realized-niche position for soil nutrients and pH towards nutrient-poorer and more acidic soils. Main conclusions Forest understorey plants shifted their realized niche along the latitudinal gradient, suggesting local adaptation and/or plasticity. This macroecological pattern casts doubt on the idea that the realized niche is stable in space and time, which is a key assumption of species distribution models used to predict the future of biodiversity, hence raising concern about predicted extinction rates.

Author Keyword(s)
  • Beta diversity
  • climate change
  • detrended correspondence analyses
  • Ellenberg indicator values
  • forest understorey plant species
  • niche optimum
  • niche width
  • plant community
  • realized niche
KeyWord(s) Plus
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Geosciences
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Ecology
  • Geography, Physical

[Wasof, Safaa; Lenoir, Jonathan; Gallet-Moron, Emilie; Jamoneau, Aurelien; Decocq, Guillaume] Jules Verne Univ Picardy, UR Ecol & Dynam Syst Anthropises, EDYSAN, FRE CNRS 3498, F-80037 Amiens 1, France; [Brunet, Jorg] Swedish Univ Agr Sci, Southern Swedish Forest Res Ctr, SE-23053 Alnarp, Sweden; [Cousins, Sara A. O.] Stockholm Univ, Dept Geog & Quaternary Geol, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden; [De Frenne, Pieter; Verheyen, Kris] Univ Ghent, Forest & Nat Lab, B-9090 Melle Gontrode, Belgium; [De Frenne, Pieter] Univ Cambridge, Dept Plant Sci, Forest Ecol & Conservat Grp, Cambridge CB2 3EA, England; [Diekmann, Martin; Kolb, Annette] Univ Bremen, Inst Ecol, D-28359 Bremen, Germany; [Hermy, Martin] Univ Leuven KU Leuven, Div Forest Nat & Landscape Res, B-3000 Louvain, Belgium; [Liira, Jaan] Univ Tartu, Inst Ecol & Earth Sci, EE-51005 Tartu, Estonia; [Wulf, Monika] Leibniz ZALF eV, Inst Land Use Syst, D-15374 Muncheberg, Germany; [Wulf, Monika] Univ Potsdam, Inst Biochem & Biol, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany

Reprint Adress

Decocq, G (reprint author), Jules Verne Univ Picardy, Plant Divers Lab, 1 Rue Louvels, F-80037 Amiens 1, France.

  • Belgium
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
CNRS - Adress(es)
  • Ecologie et dynamique des systèmes anthropisés (EDYSAN), FRE3498
Accession Number
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