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Lehrstuhl für Biogeografie

Prof. Dr. Carl Beierkuhnlein

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The effects of Climate Change on endemic plants of La Palma

Fabian Spaich

Betreuer: Severin D.H. Irl, Anja Jaeschke, Carl Beierkuhnlein

The aim of this master thesis is to investigate how Climate Change affects future distributions of endemic spermatophytes of La Palma, Canary Islands. Future distributions of selected Single Island Endemics (SIE) and Multi Island Endemics (MIE) will be modelled with BioMod on the base of species absence/presence data collected over 7 years. In a second step, the location of nature reserves will be evaluated with regards to future distributions of endemic spermatophytes. Special focus will be laid on the 36 SIEs of the island.


Background: Although quite small in area, high elevation islands are hotspots of global biodiversity. This is mainly because these islands harbor range-restricted endemics, which evolved in situ due to adaptive Radiation. Recent studies suggest that this unique biodiversity is – besides habitat destruction and invasive species – highly threatened by global climate change (see e.g. Harter et al. 2015), even though island are traditionally thought of as being climatically stable owing to their oceanic position, also in terms of climate change. A local extinction of endemics that only occur on a single island (so called single-island endemics) would automatically result in the global extinction of this species. Climate projections that were developed for continental conditions are not fully applicable to islands due to the island-specific ecology but also evolutionary conditions. Among other difficulties in transferability are insufficient resolution of global climate models, ecological peculiarities of endemics or small-scale climate differences.


Research object: Your research object is La Palma of the Canary Islands. La Palma is almost 2500 m high and therefore possesses strong ecological gradients as well as its own array of endemic species. In the last years about 2000 plots were sampled, covering the whole island.


Research question: Which influence do different climate change scenarios have on the distribution of endemic plant species on La Palma? Which species are particularly threatened?


The Job is to:

1. Evaluate the threat potential of endemic plant species (and further key species for ecosystem functioning) in relation to climate change using species distribution modeling 

2. Adaptation of realistic climate change scenarios for La Palma (Canary Islands)

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