Winds of change: wind connectivity, gene flow, and climate adaptation in trees

Matthew Kling1, David Ackerly1

1University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States

With forest ecosystems supporting the majority of terrestrial biodiversity and carbon storage, the fate of trees in future climates is paramount. Climate change adaptation in these ecosystems will require broad-scale movement of plant genes and species, with outcomes depending critically on passive dispersal of seed and pollen. Wind is arguably the most important dispersal vector for such movement, and exhibits strong spatial patterns that are likely to shape forest response to climate change. In this study we combine large-scale data on the predicted direction and velocity of climate change (i.e. future movement requirements), on the direction and velocity of wind (i.e. future movement potential), and on the population genetics of dozens of tree species (i.e. demonstrated movement) to investigate the role of wind in shaping historic and future directional gene flow. Our results indicate a significant role for wind in shaping asymmetric movement among tree populations across spatial scales, indicating it is indeed an important driver in these systems. We also find strong geographic patterns in the alignment between wind direction and climate gradients, highlighting landscapes where wind will either facilitate or hinder future movement required for climate tracking—a novel metric for climate change vulnerability that could help to inform conservation management strategies.


Matthew is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the spatial ecology, climatic vulnerability, and conservation of trees.

Species on the Move

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The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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