Plant Science Research

Study Reveals New Insights for Habitat Restoration in a Changing Climate

Study Reveals New Insights for Habitat Restoration in a Changing Climate suitability

Key Takeaways:

  1. Experimental Approach to Habitat Suitability: A novel method using experimental introductions provides more accurate habitat suitability estimates.
  2. Study on Haleakalā Silversword: Focused on this native Hawaiian plant, the study reveals varied survival rates across different climatic conditions.
  3. Contrast with Standard Models: Empirical results challenge common assumptions in standard species distribution models (SDMs).
  4. Implications for Restoration Efforts: Findings suggest new areas for successful restoration, differing from current predictions.

Rethinking Climate Adaptation for Native Species

A groundbreaking study led by Krushelnycky et al. in 2023 presents a new approach to understanding habitat suitability in the face of climate change. This study, focusing on the Haleakalā silversword, a native Hawaiian plant, utilized a network of out-plant plots across Haleakalā volcano in Hawaiʻi. Over approximately five years, the team observed varying survival rates closely linked to specific climatic factors like rainfall and air temperature.

Beyond Standard Models

Species distribution models (SDMs) based on occurrence data are used to evaluate climatic suitability. However, these models often suffer from inaccuracies due to disequilibrium dynamics and limitations in identifying suitable climate regions outside the current range. The empirical approach used in this study, which involved testing performance with experimental introductions, provided a more accurate model of climatic suitability for restoration or translocation activities.

Empirical Results Challenge Conventional Wisdom

The study’s findings indicated that much of the current range of the Haleakalā silversword has low suitability for long-term successful restoration. Interestingly, areas where the plant does not exist showed high climatic suitability. This starkly contrasts with predictions from standard SDMs, which suggested continued suitability throughout the plant’s current range.

Future Projections and Restoration Strategies

Using their empirical model, the researchers projected future climatic suitability through 2051. The results suggest that, under ongoing climatic shifts, many areas currently inhabited by the Haleakalā silversword may become unsuitable. This challenges the common presumption in SDMs of equilibrium between species distributions and their environment, emphasizing the need for dynamic and adaptable restoration strategies, especially for long-established native species.

Read the complete study here.

Photo by Martin Zangerl on Unsplash 

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