Forecasting the effects of climate change on the distribution of Andean trees (Polylepis, Rosaceae) is important to understand how species respond to climate variability and to assess their resilience to the ongoing climate crisis. Here, paleodistribution modelling is used to assess distribution shifts of 17 Polylepis species during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), mid-Holocene (MH), and the Anthropocene in the central Andes. Species distribution models (SDMs) were computed by combining presence records and current climatic conditions using Maxent and projected onto three climatic scenarios for the LGM (~22,000 yr BP), the MH (~6,000 yr BP), and the Anthropocene (1,970–2,000). Subsequently, current refugia hotspots were identified by intersecting suitable habitat over the LGM, MH, and anthropogenic conditions for all the studied species. SDMs for the LGM and MH showed a contraction of climate suitable habitat for most of the species in comparison to the Anthropocene. Four current refugia hotspots were identified: central Cordillera of Peru, Lake Titicaca basin, western Cordillera of Bolivia, and northern Chile. In general, SDMs were consistent with patterns proposed with pollen records, and partially with available phylogeographic studies. Current hotspots are highly important areas for the conservation of Polylepis and associated biota. This study assists in understanding distribution shifts over millennia of Andean tree species in response to climate change and identifying key conservation areas for the delineation of future conservation strategies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics