Regional disparity in extinction risk: comparison of disjunct plant genera between eastern Asia and eastern North America

Glob Chang Biol. 2021 Jan 20. doi: 10.1111/gcb.15525. Online ahead of print.


Climate and land cover changes are rising threats to biodiversity globally. However, potentially varying biotic sensitivity is a major source of uncertainty for translating environmental changes to extinction risks. To reduce this uncertainty, we assessed how extinction risks will be affected by future human-driven environmental changes, focusing on 554 species from 52 disjunct plant genera between eastern Asia (EAS) and eastern North America (ENA) to control for differences in environmental sensitivity at the genus level. Species distribution models were used to estimate and compare the vulnerability of species in disjunct genera between the two regions under two climate and land cover changes scenarios (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5) in 2070s, allowing to assess effects of differences in climate and land cover pressures. Compared with ENA, stronger pressures from climate and land cover changes along with smaller range sizes in EAS translate into a larger number and proportion of species in disjunct genera becoming threatened by 2070s. These regional differences are more pronounced under a best-case climate scenario (RCP2.6), illustrating that strong climate change (RCP8.5) may override any regional buffer capacities. The main variables determining extinction risks differed between two continental regions, with annual temperature range and cropland expansion being important in EAS, and annual precipitation being important in ENA. These results suggest that disparities in regional exposure to anthropogenic environmental changes may cause congeneric species with relatively similar sensitivity to have different future risks of extinction. Moreover, the findings highlight the context-specific nature of anthropogenic effects on biodiversity and the importance of making region-specific policies for conservation and restoration in response to the intensifying global changes.

PMID:33474767 | DOI:10.1111/gcb.15525