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Climatic Disequilibrium Threatens Conservation Priority Forests

  • Brian Huntley
  • Judy R. M. Allen
  • Jonathan Bennie
  • Yvonne C. Collingham
  • Paul A. Miller
  • Andrew J. Suggitt
Publishing year: 2018-01
Language: English
Publication/Series: Conservation Letters
Volume: 11
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

We test the hypothesis that climatic changes since 1800 have resulted in unrealized potential vegetation changes that represent a "climatic debt" for many ecosystems. Caledonian pinewoods, an EU priority forest type, are used as a model system to explore potential impacts of two centuries of climatic change upon sites of conservation importance and surrounding landscapes. Using methods that estimate topographic microclimate, current and preindustrial climates were estimated for 50 m grid cells and simulations made using a dynamic vegetation model. Core Caledonian pinewood areas are now less suitable for growth of pine and more favorable for oak than in 1800, whereas landscapes as a whole are on average more favorable for both. The most favorable areas for pine are now mainly outside areas designated to conserve historical pinewoods. A paradigm shift is needed in formulating conservation strategies to avoid catastrophic losses of this habitat, and of many others globally with trees or other long-lived perennials as keystone species.


  • Climate Research
  • Ecology
  • Caledonian pinewoods
  • Climatic debt
  • Ecological inertia
  • Preindustrial climate
  • Scotland
  • Special areas of conservation


  • ISSN: 1755-263X
E-mail: paul [dot] miller [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se

Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Lund University
Sölvegatan 12
S-223 62 Lund

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