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Natura 2000 forest habitats: climatic debt in lowlands and thermophilization in highlands

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Natura 2000 is a European network of sites dedicated to the conservation of vulnerable habitats. The definitions of Natura 2000 habitats are mainly based on plant communities. We investigated if the increase of the dominance of warm-adapted species observed in plant communities, described as thermophilization, had already led to measurable changes in Natura 2000 forest habitats. We created 5701 pairs of neighboring forest plots by gathering plots surveyed before 1987 and after 1997 to reflect historical and recent climatic conditions. A Natura 2000 habitat type was assigned to each vegetation plot using an automatic classification program. We calculated a temperature index that synthesized the temperature range of each habitat, and compared the habitat temperature indexes of the recent and historical plots of each pair. We highlighted a significant overall shift of 4.8% ± 1.78 (CI 95%) of the pairs toward warmer habitats over the studied period. While the shift was not significant in lowlands, 11.1% ± 3.0 (CI 95%) of the pairs evolved toward warmer habitats in highlands. The excess of pairs with a warmer habitat in the recent period was interpreted as thermophilization of Natura 2000 forest habitats. Therefore, global warming has been strong enough to induce actual changes at the coarse-grained habitat resolution specifically targeted by public policies. The absence of significant results in lowlands suggests the existence of unrealized potential habitat changes, which can be considered as a climatic debt. These results call for differential prioritization levels and implementations of public policies for nature conservation in lowlands and highlands.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Natura 2000 forest habitats: climatic debt in lowlands
and thermophilization in highlands
Lise Maciejewski
1,2
Emilien Kuhn
1
Anne Ge
´gout-Petit
3
Jean-Claude Ge
´gout
1
Received: 10 January 2020 / Revised: 21 August 2020 / Accepted: 23 August 2020 /
Published online: 1 September 2020
ÓSpringer Nature B.V. 2020
Abstract
Natura 2000 is a European network of sites dedicated to the conservation of vulnerable
habitats. The definitions of Natura 2000 habitats are mainly based on plant communities.
We investigated if the increase of the dominance of warm-adapted species observed in
plant communities, described as thermophilization, had already led to measurable changes
in Natura 2000 forest habitats. We created 5701 pairs of neighboring forest plots by
gathering plots surveyed before 1987 and after 1997 to reflect historical and recent climatic
conditions. A Natura 2000 habitat type was assigned to each vegetation plot using an
automatic classification program. We calculated a temperature index that synthesized the
temperature range of each habitat, and compared the habitat temperature indexes of the
recent and historical plots of each pair. We highlighted a significant overall shift of
4.8% ±1.78 (CI 95%) of the pairs toward warmer habitats over the studied period. While
the shift was not significant in lowlands, 11.1% ±3.0 (CI 95%) of the pairs evolved
toward warmer habitats in highlands. The excess of pairs with a warmer habitat in the
recent period was interpreted as thermophilization of Natura 2000 forest habitats. There-
fore, global warming has been strong enough to induce actual changes at the coarse-
grained habitat resolution specifically targeted by public policies. The absence of signifi-
cant results in lowlands suggests the existence of unrealized potential habitat changes,
which can be considered as a climatic debt. These results call for differential prioritization
levels and implementations of public policies for nature conservation in lowlands and
highlands.
Keywords Climate change Forest ecosystem Global warming Habitat of Community
interest Habitats Directive Public policies
Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-
02044-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
&Lise Maciejewski
lise.maciejewski@agroparistech.fr
Extended author information available on the last page of the article
123
Biodiversity and Conservation (2020) 29:3689–3701
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-02044-z(0123456789().,-volV)(0123456789().,-volV)
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... L'augmentation des températures est toutefois plus rapide que leur capacité de déplacement, en particulier pour la flore (Martin et al. 2019). Le réchauffement climatique induit également des changement à l'échelle des habitats forestiers, avec des impacts différenciés sur les habitats des régions en altitude (modification vers des habitats plus chauds) et les plaines (où les communautés végétales semblent inertes et développent une « dette climatique ») (Maciejewski et al. 2020). Par ailleurs, d'autres paramètres que la température déterminent la répartition des espèces, par exemple des obstacles limitant la possibilité de colonisation de nouveaux espaces plus au nord ou en altitude. ...
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