Biome shifts and species distribution modelling

South Africa hosts an exceptionally rich plant biodiversity. It has been suggested that climate change will significantly alter the current plant distributions. This may happen to the extent that some of the main biomes will not only shift their borders, but may also be replaced by new type of biomes. However, so far we do not have good predictive models to help us understand how the South African vegetation patterns are likely to change in the face of climate change.

This EMSAfrica work package uses different approaches to try to assess how the biodiversity of vascular plants will change in South Africa, and how these changes reflect to the level of entire biomes. 

As the basis of this work, we will use existing SANBI and SAEON datasets on the distribution of vascular plants in South Africa. Using the Species Distribution Model (SDM) methodology, our team will develop assessments of how the diversity of vascular plants will change over time. 

We will also establish field experiments to test how plants respond to factors that are affected by climate change, such as water availability and temperature. 


Team: Steven Higgins (subproject lead, University of Bayreuth), Jasper Slingsby (SAEON)