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  1. Plants will experience considerable changes in climate within their geographic ranges over the next several decades. They may respond by exhibiting niche flexibility and adapting to changing climates. Alternatively, plant taxa may exhibit climate fidelity, shifting their geographic distributions to track their preferred climates. Here, we examine the responses of plant taxa to changing climates over the past 18,000 y to evaluate the extent to which the 16 dominant plant taxa of North America have exhibited climate fidelity. We find that 75% of plant taxa consistently exhibit climate fidelity over the past 18,000 y, even during the times of most extreme climate change. Of the four taxa that do not consistently exhibit climate fidelity, three—elm ( Ulmus ), beech ( Fagus ), and ash ( Fraxinus )—experience a long-term shift in their realized climatic niche between the early Holocene and present day. Plant taxa that migrate longer distances better maintain consistent climatic niches across transition periods during times of the most extreme climate change. Today, plant communities with the highest climate fidelity are found in regions with high topographic and microclimate heterogeneity that are expected to exhibit high climate resilience, allowing plants to shift distributions locally and adjust to somemore »amount of climate change. However, once the climate change buffering of the region is exceeded, these plant communities will need to track climates across broader landscapes but be challenged to do so because of the low habitat connectivity of the regions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 14, 2024
  2. Cities and agricultural fields encroach on the most fertile, habitable terrestrial landscapes, fundamentally altering global ecosystems. Today, 75% of terrestrial ecosystems are considerably altered by human activities, and landscape transformation continues to accelerate. Human impacts are one of the major drivers of the current biodiversity crisis, and they have had unprecedented consequences on ecosystem function and rates of species extinctions for thousands of years. Here we use the fossil record to investigate whether changes in geographic range that could result from human impacts have altered the climatic niches of 46 species covering six mammal orders within the contiguous United States. Sixty-seven percent of the studied mammals have significantly different climatic niches today than they did before the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Niches changed the most in the portions of the range that overlap with human-impacted landscapes. Whether by forcible elimination/introduction or more indirect means, large-bodied dietary specialists have been extirpated from climatic envelopes that characterize human-impacted areas, whereas smaller, generalist mammals have been facilitated, colonizing these same areas of the climatic space. Importantly, the climates where we find mammals today do not necessarily represent their past habitats. Without mitigation, as we move further into the Anthropocene, we can anticipatemore »a low standing biodiversity dominated by small, generalist mammals.

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