Many plants face uphill struggle for survival

Public Release: 

Plant species’ responses to climate change altered by novel competitors

Study by UC Riverside ecologist and colleagues finds that as climate warms, many plants face uphill struggle for survival

University of California – Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – With climate change and rising average temperatures, many wild animals and plants are being forced into new habitats, their distributions shifting in elevation and latitude with differing velocities. For alpine plants, this could mean facing competition from species unknown to them, such as plants found at lower elevations today that migrate to higher elevations due to climate change.

A new study, published this week in Nature, by Jeffrey M. Diez, an assistant professor of plant ecology at the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues now provides the first empirical evidence that this new source of competition among plants could be decisive and contributes to growing evidence that changing species interactions are more important than the direct effects of temperature after climate warming.

“When species migrate to different environments to keep up with changes in climate, they encounter new competitors, and engage in new interactions within ecological communities,” Diez said. “To accurately predict species’ responses to climate change, future forecasts should account for new competitor species affecting ecological communities.” Read more.