Background and aims
Hedgerows have been shown to improve forest connectivity, leading to an increased probability of species to track the shifting bioclimatic envelopes. However, it is still unknown how species in hedgerows respond to temperature changes, and whether effects differ compared to those in nearby forests. We aimed to elucidate how ongoing changes in the climate system will affect the efficiency of hedgerows to support forest plant persistence and migration in agricultural landscapes.
Here we report results from the first warming experiment in hedgerows. We combined reciprocal transplantation of plants along an 860-km latitudinal transect with experimental warming to assess the effects of temperature on vegetative growth and reproduction of two common forest herbs (Anemone nemorosa and Geum urbanum) in hedgerows vs forests.
Both species grew taller and produced more biomass in forests than in hedgerows, most likely due to a higher competition with ruderals and graminoids in hedgerows. Adult plant performance of both species generally benefitted from experimental warming, despite lower survival of A. nemorosa in heated plots. Transplantation affected the species differently: A. nemorosa plants grew taller, produced more biomass and showed higher survival when transplanted at their home site, indicating local adaptation, while individuals of G. urbanum showed larger height, biomass, reproductive output and survival when transplanted northwards, likely owing to the higher light availability associated with increasing photoperiod during the growing season.
These findings demonstrate that some forest herbs can show phenotypic plasticity to warming temperatures, potentially increasing their ability to benefit from hedgerows as ecological corridors. Our study thus provides novel insights into the impacts of climate change on understory plant community dynamics in hedgerows, and how rising temperature can influence the efficiency of these corridors to assist forest species’ persistence and colonization within and beyond their current distribution range.