Annals of Botany

Communities on infertile soils are less sensitive to climate change

Much evidence suggests that plant communities on infertile soils are relatively insensitive to increased water deficit caused by increasing temperature and/or decreasing precipitation.

Asclepias solanoana
Asclepias solanoana

Harrison et al. undertake a re-analysis of a large, multi-decade study that examined forest understories on infertile serpentine and fertile soils in an aridifying climate in southern Oregon from 1949–51 to 2007–08. They conclude that the balance of evidence supports a hypothesis that links soil infertility to a stress-tolerant functional trait syndrome that tends to confer unusually high resistance of plant species and communities to climate change. This is qualified, however, by noting that the evidence only applies to communities that are becoming effectively drier because of declining precipitation and/or increasing temperatures leading to greater water deficits.

This article appears in the special issue Plants and Climate Change.