Plants and Climate Change: Complexities and Surprises

Photo: BigStockPhoto.
Photo: BigStockPhoto.

Four decades of intensive research into anthropogenically induced shifts in CO2, precipitation, and temperature evidence important biological impacts on many plant species. As ecologists develop more sophisticated experiments however, many unexpected responses become apparent, suggesting that response to climate change in real world vegetation is more complex than the experiments and models of past decades could be expected to anticipate. Nonetheless, these complexities must be understood if we are to have any hope of predicting the effects of anthropogenic climate change on biological systems.

In this Symposium session at ESA 2014, we focus on surprises in plant responses, highlighting mismatches between theory, modelling, experimental and observational studies. We bring together expertise from multiple levels of study (from individual to ecosystems), using manifold approaches (from experimental to modelling to observational), and from ecological, evolutionary and paleo perspectives. Speakers span a range of career stages, from well-established to just finishing their PhDs and include perspectives from four continents (North America, Africa, Asia and Australia).

By bringing together this diversity of topics, approaches and perspectives, we aim to gain new insights and promote future interdisciplinary research on plant/climate interactions.

We hope you’ll be able to join us in Sacramento.

Camille Parmesan, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, UK. and
Mick Hanley, School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK.


13:30 – Richard Primack (University of Boston, USA) Autumn leaf phenology: A search for patterns using 1000 species at four botanical gardens

14:00 – Susan P. Harrison (University of California – Davis, USA) Ecological contingency in the effects of climate change on plant communities: reconciling experimental, historical, interannual, and geographic evidence

14:30 – Kumar P. Mainali (University of Texas at Austin, USA) Complex drivers of population dynamics across treeline: expected and unexpected responses in Himalayan systems

15:10 – Osvaldo Sala (Arizona State University, USA) Lags in the response of ecosystems to directional changes in water availability

15:40 – Tianhua He (Curtin University, Perth, Australia) In situ evolutionary adaptation of Australian plants to climate change

16:10 – Guy Midgley (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) Individualistic species vs. ecosystem responses in under changing climate and CO2 conditions

16:40 Panel Discussion

Annals of Botany Special Issue

The Annals of Botany journal expects to publish work presented at Sacramento as part of a special issue on Plants and Climate Change in the early part of 2015.
The journal welcomes submission of relevant papers from any plant biologist or ecologist for publication in this special issue. Please contact Mick Hanley (mehanley(at) for more details.