Endemism Hotspots as Climate Change Refugia: A Special Issue of Annals of Botany

Plant surviving in harsh conditions.
Photo: Mick Hanley.

Centers of endemism have long been of interest to biogeographers, evolutionary biologists, and ecologists, and more recently to conservation biologists, who often recognize them as biodiversity hotspots and priorities for protection. The evolutionary and ecological processes responsible for producing concentrations of narrow-range species are complex and may include many interacting aspects of climatic, geologic, and biogeographic history. One classic idea with considerable modern resonance is that centers of endemism are associated with the combination of climatic stability and, in many cases, high topographic relief or other environmental heterogeneity. These factors combine to influence the velocity of climatic change, defined as the speed at which organisms must move to remain in a constant climate. Regions, or sites within regions, with low climate-change velocity are potential climatic refugia, where distinct floras and faunas may both persist and speciate during periods of substantial global or regional climate change. Will hotspots of endemism therefore also be centers of persistence and speciation during 21st-century climate change?

Annals of Botany sponsored a symposium on this topic at this year’s 100th meeting of the Ecological Society of America, held in Baltimore, which explored the ecology, evolution, and conservation of centers of endemism. Speakers considered whether these centers are consistently associated with a low velocity of climate change and coincide with hypothesized climatic refugia, together with questions about the ecology and evolution of narrow-range species. For example, what kinds of species are endemic in high-biodiversity regions? Are they extreme specialists for specific environmental conditions? Have they responded to predictable environments that characterize a stable climate, in terms of substrate, physical and biotic environment, or disturbance regime? Do they have conservative niches? The symposium considered the relative roles of low extinction rates vs. high speciation rates in endemism hotspots and addressed the relative composition of neoendemics and paleoendemics in centers of endemism, and the ecological or evolutionary processes that produce variation in this ratio. The overarching goal was to explore whether past climatic refugia with concentrations of narrow-range species will remain stable and retain biodiversity during the present and anticipated future condition of rapid climate change.

Annals of Botany will be publishing a Special Issue in early 2017 based around the broad theme of Endemism Hotspots as Climate Change Refugia and including contributions from the speakers at the ESA symposium. The Special Issue will be edited by Reed Noss, Susan Harrison and William Platt.

This is an open call for submission of additional papers for inclusion in the Special Issue. All types of papers (primary research articles, reviews, viewpoints, research-in-context) are welcomed. If you have a manuscript that you would like to be considered, please send an outline (Title, Authors and 250–500 words) to annalsbotany@le.ac.uk by 29 February 2016. If agreed, the full paper would need to be submitted by 1 April 2016, in order to enter the full peer review process.