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Biotic and anthropogenic forces rival climatic/abiotic factors in determining global plant population growth and fitness

Author(s): William F. Morris, Johan Ehrlén, Johan P. Dahlgren, Alexander K. Loomis, Allison M. Louthan
Year Published: 2020

Multiple, simultaneous environmental changes, in climatic/abiotic factors, interacting species, and direct human influences, are impacting natural populations and thus biodiversity, ecosystem services, and evolutionary trajectories. Determining whether the magnitudes of the population impacts of abiotic, biotic, and anthropogenic drivers differ, accounting for their direct effects and effects mediated through other drivers, would allow us to better predict population fates and design mitigation strategies. We compiled 644 paired values of the population growth rate (λ) from high and low levels of an identified driver from demographic studies of terrestrial plants. Among abiotic drivers, natural disturbance (not climate), and among biotic drivers, interactions with neighboring plants had the strongest effects on λ. However, when drivers were combined into the 3 main types, their average effects on λ did not differ. For the subset of studies that measured both the average and variability of the driver, λ was marginally more sensitive to 1 SD of change in abiotic drivers relative to biotic drivers, but sensitivity to biotic drivers was still substantial. Similar impact magnitudes for abiotic/biotic/anthropogenic drivers hold for plants of different growth forms, for different latitudinal zones, and for biomes characterized by harsher or milder abiotic conditions, suggesting that all 3 drivers have equivalent impacts across a variety of contexts. Thus, the best available information about the integrated effects of drivers on all demographic rates provides no justification for ignoring drivers of any of these 3 types when projecting ecological and evolutionary responses of populations and of biodiversity to environmental changes.

Citation: Morris WF, Ehrlén J, Dahlgren JP, Loomis AK, and Louthan AM. 2020. Biotic and anthropogenic forces rival climatic/abiotic factors in determining global plant population growth and fitness. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences 117 (2): 1107-1112. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918363117
Topic(s): Fire Regime, Climate and Fire Regime Change, Fire & Climate
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20734
Record updated: Feb 6, 2020