Less favourable climates constrain demographic strategies in plants

Anna M. Csergő, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Olivier Broennimann, Shaun R. Coutts, Antoine Guisan, Amy L. Angert, Erik Welk, Iain Stott, Brian J. Enquist, Brian McGill, Jens Christian Svenning, Cyrille Violle, Yvonne M. Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Correlative species distribution models are based on the observed relationship between species’ occurrence and macroclimate or other environmental variables. In climates predicted less favourable populations are expected to decline, and in favourable climates they are expected to persist. However, little comparative empirical support exists for a relationship between predicted climate suitability and population performance. We found that the performance of 93 populations of 34 plant species worldwide – as measured by in situ population growth rate, its temporal variation and extinction risk – was not correlated with climate suitability. However, correlations of demographic processes underpinning population performance with climate suitability indicated both resistance and vulnerability pathways of population responses to climate: in less suitable climates, plants experienced greater retrogression (resistance pathway) and greater variability in some demographic rates (vulnerability pathway). While a range of demographic strategies occur within species’ climatic niches, demographic strategies are more constrained in climates predicted to be less suitable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-980
Number of pages12
JournalEcology letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database
  • Climate change
  • demographic compensation
  • ecological niche models
  • matrix population models
  • population dynamics
  • spatial demography
  • species distribution models
  • species interactions–abiotic stress hypothesis
  • stress gradient hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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