The Dutch flora in a changing environment: an analysis of the effects of climate change on plant metapopulations
09 / 2005 - unknown
Due to climate change extreme events are predicted to occur more frequently and temperatures will increase. Plants and animals will have to move northwards or upwards to stay in their climatic envelope. This movement of species is expected to be hampered by landscape fragmentation and habitat deterioration. The landscape in The Netherlands is highly fragmented, which makes it difficult for animal and plant species to migrate. The Dutch National Ecological Network (NEN) is under construction to improve spatial cohesion in an attempt to conserve biodiversity in The Netherlands. This Ecological Network is based on the idea of metapopulations where local populations are connected to each other through dispersal. The basic idea is to improve spatial cohesion by expanding nature areas and creating corridors between nature areas. However, there is still a debate going on whether the metapopulation theory is applicable for plants. Thus, at present it remains unclear whether the NEN will be effective for plant species. Although climate change is predicted to be a potential threat to the ecological functioning of the NEN, its potential risks for the long term conservation of biodiversity, and plants in particular, within the NEN have not yet been addressed.
This PhD project aims to determine whether the structure of the NEN will enable plant species to move to new territories as forced by climate change, and if not, which changes within the NEN will be necessary and which species will be at risk. Three approaches will be used: mathematical models, database analyses, and common garden experiments.
The specific objectives are: 1. To study the effects of different climate change scenarios on the spatial distribution of the Dutch flora. 2. To investigate the effects of changes in habitat quality (due to climate change and land use changes) on the dynamics of plant species populations. 3. To determine the relative importance of plant characteristics, such as dispersion and mycorrhizal dependency, for the ability of plants to survive in a changing environment.