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Title: Rethinking restoration targets for American chestnut using species distribution modeling
Given the scale and speed of contemporary environmental changes, intensive conservation interventions are increasingly being proposed that would assist the evolution of adaptive traits in threatened species. The ambition of these projects is tempered by a number of concerns, including the potential maladaptation of manipulated organisms for contemporary and future climatic conditions in their historical ranges. Following the guidelines of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, we use a species distribution model (SDM) to consider the potential impact of climate change on the distribution and quantity of suitable habitat for American chestnut (Castanea dentata), a functionally extinct forest species that has been the focus of various restoration efforts for over 100 years. Consistent with other SDMs for North American trees, our model shows contraction of climatically suitable habitat for American chestnut within the species’ historical range and the expansion of climatically suitable habitat in regions to the north of it by 2080. These broad changes have significant implications for restoration practice. In particular, they highlight the importance of germplasm conservation, local adaptation, and addressing knowledge gaps about the interspecific interactions of American chestnut. More generally, this model demonstrates that the goals of assisted evolution projects, which often aim to maintain species in their native ranges, need to account for the uncertainty and more » novelty of future environmental conditions. « less
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Biodiversity and Conservation
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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