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Facilitating adaptation in montane plants to changing precipitation along an elevation gradient

April 12, 2017

Montane plant communities throughout the world have responded to changes in precipitation and temperature regimes by shifting ranges upward in elevation. Continued warmer, drier climate conditions have been documented and are projected to increase in high-elevation areas in Hawai‘i, consistent with climate change effects reported in other environments throughout the world. Organisms that cannot disperse or adapt biologically to projected climate scenarios in situ may decrease in distributional range and abundance over time. Restoration efforts will need
to accommodate future climate change and account for the interactive effects of existing invasive species to ensure long-term persistence. As part of a larger, ongoing restoration effort, we hypothesized that plants from a lower-elevation forest ecotype would have higher rates of survival and growth compared to high-elevation forest conspecifics when grown in common plots along an elevation gradient. We monitored climate conditions at planting sites to identify whether temperature or rainfall influenced survival and growth after 20 weeks. We found that origin significantly affected survival in only one of three native montane species, Dodonaea viscosa. Contrary to our hypothesis, 75.2% of seedlings from high-elevation origin survived in comparison to 58.7% of seedlings from low elevation across the entire elevation gradient. Origin also influenced survival in linearized mixed models that controlled for temperature, precipitation, and elevation in D. viscosa and Chenopodium oahuense. Only C. oahuense seedlings had similar predictors of growth and survival. There were no common patterns of growth or survival between species, indicating that responses to changing precipitation and emperature regimes varied between montane plant species. Results also suggest that locally sourced seed is important to ensure highest survival at restoration sites. Further experimentation on larger spatial and temporal scales is necessary to determine the empirical responses of species and communities to changing climate in the full context of highly degraded Hawaiian ecosystems.

Publication Year 2017
Title Facilitating adaptation in montane plants to changing precipitation along an elevation gradient
Authors Steve C. Hess, Christina Leopold
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Series Title Technical Report
Series Number HCSU-080
Index ID 70185351
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center