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Empirical Analyses of Plant-Climate Relationships for the Western United States

TitleEmpirical Analyses of Plant-Climate Relationships for the Western United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRehfeldt, G. E., N. L. Crookston, M. V. Warwell, and J. S. Evans
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Date PublishedNOV 2006
ISBN Number1058-5893
KeywordsADAPTIVE EVOLUTION, bioclimatic models, CHANGING CLIMATE, climatic distributions, climatic niche, CONTINENTAL-SCALE, global change, global warming, MIGRATION RATES, PINUS-SYLVESTRIS, POLLEN SPECTRA, Random Forests multiple-regression tree, response to climate change, SPECIES DISTRIBUTIONS, VEGETATION DISTRIBUTION, WATER-BALANCE

The Random Forests multiple-regression tree was used to model climate profiles of 25 biotic communities of the western United States and nine of their constituent species. Analyses of the communities were based on a gridded sample of ca. 140,000 points, while those for the species used presence-absence data from ca. 120,000 locations. Independent variables included 35 simple expressions of temperature and precipitation and their interactions. Classification errors for community models averaged 19%, but the errors were reduced by half when adjusted for misalignment between geographic data sets. Errors of omission for species-specific models approached 0, while errors of commission were less than 9%. Mapped climate profiles of the species were in solid agreement with range maps. Climate variables of most importance for segregating the communities were those that generally differentiate maritime, continental, and monsoonal climates, while those of importance for predicting the occurrence of species varied among species but consistently implicated the periodicity of precipitation and temperature-precipitation interactions. Projections showed that unmitigated global warming should increase the abundance primarily of the montane forest and grassland community profiles at the expense largely of those of the subalpine, alpine, and tundra communities but also that of the arid woodlands. However, the climate of 47% of the future landscape may be extramural to contemporary community profiles. Effects projected on the spatial distribution of species-specific profiles were varied, but shifts in space and attitude would be extensive. Species-specific projections were not necessarily consistent with those of their communities.

Reference number


Short TitleEmpirical Analyses of Plant-Climate Relationships for the Western United States
Citation Key463