At the receding edge of species distributions in particular, however, the magnitude and speed of projected anthropogenic climate change is likely to surpass adaptive capacity in many cases, resulting in local extirpations (Davis and Shaw, 2001). As climate changes, species and genotypes within species that are mal-adapted may be replaced by fitter ones that are already present at a site or by genotypes migrating from elsewhere. At the ecosystem level, the result will be a change in the relative abundance of species and genotypes in the landscape. Such changes may be unpredictable, with significant changes in net
ecosystem productivity possible (Thornley and Cannell, 1996 and Wang RGFP966 purchase et al., 2012). Extirpation of ecologically important keystone species will have critical impacts on coexisting organisms and their adaptation. Climate change may also result in high variability in temperature and precipitation, with an increase in incidence of extreme events, such as flooding, late frosts and intensive summer droughts, amongst other events (IPCC, 2011) (Table 1). In some areas, such as the Mediterranean and the Neo-tropics,
an increase in seasonality is also expected (Alcamo et al., 2007 and Meir and Woodward, 2010). Under such conditions, natural selection may not result in efficient adaptation because selection pressures are multi-directional, involving traits that may be inversely selleck compound correlated at the gene level (Jump and Peñuelas, 2005). The standing genetic variation in populations may then not be large enough to create the rare new genotypic combinations that are required. Ecosystems affected by abrupt change may sustain
rapid and widespread transformation as ecological tipping points are exceeded (Lenton, 2011). Given the pivotal role of trees in ecosystem function, abrupt climate change impacts on them may thus have profound consequences for forests as a whole mafosfamide (Whitham et al., 2006). Irreversible loss of ecosystem integrity and function may follow, with replacement by new non-endemic ecosystems (Gunderson and Holling, 2002 and Mooney et al., 2009). Tree populations rely on three interplaying mechanisms to respond to environmental change: adaptation, migration; and phenotypic plasticity (Davis and Shaw, 2001 and Jump and Peñuelas, 2005). Genetic adaptations that make a population more suited for survival are achieved through gene frequency changes across generations (Koski et al., 1997). Many tree species have high genetic variability in adaptive traits and can therefore grow under a wide range of conditions (Gutschick and BassiriRad, 2003). Indeed, phenotypic traits of adaptive importance, such as drought tolerance, cold-hardiness, resistance to pests and diseases, and flowering and fruiting period, have been shown to vary across ecological and geographic gradients to an extent that may be as important as the differences observed amongst species (Alberto et al., 2013 and Petit and Hampe, 2006).