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Conservation priorities differ at opposing species borders of a European orchid

By Marion Pfeifer, Nicodemo G. Passalacqua, Stefan Bartram, Bertrand Schatz, Antonio Croce, Pete D. Carey, Heide Kraudelt and Florian Jeltsch


How populations from different regions within the distribution of a species contribute to the adaptive potential and survival of that species has important implications for formulating conservation actions. We test assumptions of concepts on geographic population structure (e.g. central-marginal concept and ‘rear edge versus leading edge’ model) that could be used to inform conservation of plant species under climatic changes. We analyze a comprehensive dataset of demographic traits (e.g. population size, flowering, δ13C of plant leaves) of up to 32 sites of Himantoglossum hircinum (L.) Spreng. (Orchidaceae) located within six sub-regions of its European distribution range. Soil and climate parameters are employed as environmental predictors of variation in measured population traits. Climate is the main driver of demographic variability overriding central-marginal gradients that might be present. Warming of the climate at high latitudes paves the way for northward range expansion of species. Populations at the north and north-eastern range peripheries partly show exponential population growth and high genetic diversity and are likely to be the source of immigrants for colonization of newly suitable habitats as the climate continues to change. In recent times, populations at the southern range periphery have suffered from intensification of land use and decreasing rainfall, but in the case of Southern Italy are important because they contain genetically unique traits. Populations at both, ‘leading’ and ‘rear’, edges ought to be at the focus of conservation planning. Different conservation strategies are proposed at opposing species borders taking into account spatial variation in population needs on a geographic scale, projected population response to expected environmental changes and genetic characteristics

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.06.005
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