1 PeerJ 2013 Vol: 1():. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.77

Some poleward movement of British native vascular plants is occurring, but the fingerprint of climate change is not evident

Recent upperward migration of plants and animals along altitudinal gradients and poleward movement of animal range boundaries have been confirmed by many studies. This phenomenon is considered to be part of the fingerprint of recent climate change on the biosphere. Here I examine whether poleward movement is occurring in the vascular plants of Great Britain. The ranges of plants were determined from detection/non-detection data in two periods, 1978 to 1994 and 1995 to 2011. From these, the centre of mass of the population was calculated and the magnitude and direction of range shifts were determined from movements of the centre of mass. A small, but significant, northward movement could be detected in plants with expanding ranges, but not among declining species. Species from warmer ranges were not more likely to be moving northward, nor was dispersal syndrome a predictor of migration success. It is concluded that simply looking at northward movement of species is not an effective way to identify the effect of climate change on plant migration and that other anthropogenic changes obscure the effect of climate.

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Figures
Figure 1: A circular histogram of the directions of movement of the centre of mass for those native species with increasing occupancy rates.Each dot represents the direction of migration for one species. All distributions are significantly (p < 0.05) different from random using a Kuiper test. Directions of all species are available in Table S1. Figure 2: The direction of movement of the centre of mass for those native species with decreasing occupancy rates.Each dot represents the direction of migration for one species. All distributions are significantly (p < 0.05) different from random using a Kuiper test. Directions of all species are available in Table S1. Figure 3: The mean July temperature of the ranges of species for the four different area partitions of the study.Species which had increased occupancy over the period of this study are split by the direction of movement of their centre of mass, north, south, east or west. Error bars are two standard errors of the mean. The number of species contributing to each value are as follows, Scotland N-112 S-44 E-43 W-51, England, north N-117 S-82 E-61 W-71, Wales N-86 S-64 E-24 W-64, England, south N-48 S-98 E-174 W-103. Figure 4: The natural log of the distance moved by the centre of mass for different dispersal mechanisms of species with increasing occupancy. Error bars are two standard errors of the mean.The number of species in each group were for England, south - Mammals 15, Ants 9, Birds 41, Explosive 10, Not obvious 249, Water 29, Wind 69. England, north - Mammals 12, Ants 4, Birds 33, Explosive 8, Not obvious 178, Water 32, Wind 63. Wales - Mammals 6, Ants 6, Birds 10, Explosive 7, Not obvious 143, Water 20, Wind 43. Scotland - Mammals 8, Ants 8, Birds 14, Explosive 4, Not obvious 141, Water 13, Wind 58.
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