Life in the trees: Can tree living save species from climate change?

Brett. R. Scheffers (1,3), Luke Shoo (2,3), Ben Phillips (4), Stewart L. Macdonald (2,5), Alex Anderson (2), Jeremy VanDerWal (2,6), Collin Storlie (2), Arnaud Gourret (2), Stephen E. Williams (2)

1 Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611

2Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, College of Environmental and Marine Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia

3School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

4Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville Vic 3010, Australia.

5Land and Water Flagship, CSIRO, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia

6eResearch Centre, Division of Research and Innovation, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

Biodiversity is spatially organized by climatic gradients across elevation and latitude. But do other gradients exist that might drive biogeographical patterns? Using data from tropical rainforests of SE Asia and Australia, I will show that rainforests’ vertical strata provide climatic gradients much steeper than those offered by elevation and latitude. Biodiversity of arboreal species organizes along this gradient and this organization changes with elevation and affects current biogeographic patterns through its interaction with historical environmental stability since the Last Glacial Maximum (c. 20,000 years ago). I explain how canopy science offers 1) new insights for understanding patterns of species richness and abundance globally and 2) a novel biogeographic dimension for predicting organismal vulnerability to climate change.

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