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It was a great pleasure for me to be able to write about my...
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Plant Focus

For this Species Spotlight we train our follow spot on an oak that is quite a star of the quercine scene: Quercus hypoleucoides (stage name...

Climate Change Will Severely Impact the Evergreen Oaks in East Asian Evergreen Broadleaved Forests

A new study seeks to understand the impact of climate change on evergreen broadleaved forests in East Asia.

East Asian evergreen broadleaved forests (EBLFs) are global biodiversity hotspots with rich biota and a high endemic percentage. The impact of climate change to this unique ecosystem needs to be better understood. Researchers used Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis—a dominant tree lineage in EBLFs, as a proxy to simulate their distribution dynamics. The results show that the climatic niche of these oaks diversified in response to different Asian summer monsoons. Temperature mainly impacts the oaks in the western region under the Indian summer monsoon, whereas precipitation impacts the eastern species under the East Asian summer monsoon regime.

Figure 1
The contribution of climatic variables to distribution ranges of 29 species in Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis; see article for details
Bio_02: Mean Diurnal Range, Bio_05: Max Temperature of Warmest Month, Bio_08: Mean Temperature of Wettest Quarter, Bio_09: Mean Temperature of Driest Quarter,
Bio_15: Precipitation Seasonality, Bio_18: Precipitation of Warmest Quarter, Bio_19: Precipitation of Coldest Quarter.

Abbreviations: EC: East China, SC-Indochina: Southern China-Indochina, SWC-Him: Southwest China-Himalayas, EC-J: East China-Japan, EAW: East Asia widespread, SPA: Southern Pacific Archipelago.

The oaks in section Cyclobalanopsis showed a general northward range expansion trend in the future. The most significant range shift is for the species in the Southern Pacific Archipelago, Southern China-Indochina, and the low-elevation ravines of the Himalayas. However, only 7.56% of suitable habitat is within protected areas or nature reserves. This percentage is predicted to continue declining in the future, and highly fragmented habitats, plus intensified land use, make the natural range expansion of these oaks almost impossible. Therefore, the threatened status of these oaks with restricted distributions in Asian EBLFs might be much higher than previously estimated.

Figure 2
The gain and loss of future suitable habitat of the 29 species in Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis under SSP245 and SSP585 scenarios overlaid with current protected area coverage (see full article for details and explanation of terms)
Figure 3
The direction and migration distance of centroid under different climatic scenarios of the 29 species of Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis (see article for details and abbreviations)

To safeguard these unique oaks and Asian EBLFs, in-situ conservation to increase the protected area coverage of the primary forests in highly suitable areas in southern China, southern Japan, northern Indochina, and south Borneo should be prioritized. The species in the Pacific insular and Indo-China region will experience a significant range shift. Therefore, ex-situ conservation to establish germplasm collection in a botanical garden network and transplanting these oaks to future suitable habitats should be a high priority to ensure the long-term survival of these unique forest trees. 

For further detail, the full article can be accessed online here. Images of some of the species studied, and their habitats, follow below:

Quercus augustinii
Quercus augustini, an East Himalayan species found at 1,200–2,700 m, here photographed in Gaoligong Mountain, West Yunnan, China. 
Quercus augustini habitat
Quercus augustini habitat is characterized by high humidity and is vulnerable to climate change (Gaoligong Mountain, West Yunnan, China)
Quercus championii
New growth on Quercus championii in Wangshan Island, South China sea; the involute mature leaves indicate the population is under drought stress 
Quercus championii habitat
Quercus championii, a southern China-northern Vietnam species, is dominant in the insular region, where the dry shift is expected to have a significant impact (Wangshan Island, South China sea, China)​  
Quercus kerrii
Quercus kerrii in Ximeng County, Southwest Yunnan, China
Quercus kerrii in damaged habitat
Quercus kerrii is found in seasonal rain forests, here in an area that has suffered severe human disturbance (Ximeng county, SW Yunnan, China)

Photos © Min Deng