Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ecological networks are more sensitive to plant than to animal extinction under climate change.

 2016 Dec 23;7:13965. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13965.

Author information

  • 1Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  • 2Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G2W1.
  • 3Biometry and Environmental Systems Analysis, University of Freiburg, Tennenbacherstr. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany.
  • 4Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06120 Halle, Germany.
  • 5Institute for Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Am Kirchtor 1, 06108 Halle (Saale), Germany.
  • 6German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
  • 7Conservation Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch-Str. 8, 35032 Marburg, Germany.
  • 8Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland.
  • 9Institute for Sustainability Sciences, Agroscope, Reckenholzstr. 191, CH-8046 Zürich, Switzerland.
  • 10Vegetation and Restoration Ecology, Department of Biology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstr. 10, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany.
  • 11Ecological Networks, Department of Biology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstr. 3, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany.
  • 12Department of Biological Sciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt, Max-von-Laue-Str. 9, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  • 13School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand.
  • 14Ecology Section, Department of Biology and Chemistry, University of Osnabrück, Barbarastr. 13, 49076 Osnabrück, Germany.
  • 15Department of Physical Geography, Geosciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt, Altenhöferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  • 16Zoological Museum, University of Kiel, Hegewischstr. 3, 24105 Kiel, Germany.
  • 17Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
  • 18Laboratory of Zoology, Biosciences Institute, University of Mons, Place du Parc 20, B-7000 Mons, Belgium.
  • 19Department of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Novi Sad, Trg Dositeja Obradovića 2, 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia.
  • 20Geography Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia.


Impacts of climate change on individual species are increasingly well documented, but we lack understanding of how these effects propagate through ecological communities. Here we combine species distribution models with ecological network analyses to test potential impacts of climate change on >700 plant and animal species in pollination and seed-dispersal networks from central Europe. We discover that animal species that interact with a low diversity of plant species have narrow climatic niches and are most vulnerable to climate change. In contrast, biotic specialization of plants is not related to climatic niche breadth and vulnerability. A simulation model incorporating different scenarios of species coextinction and capacities for partner switches shows that projected plant extinctions under climate change are more likely to trigger animal coextinctions than vice versa. This result demonstrates that impacts of climate change on biodiversity can be amplified via extinction cascades from plants to animals in ecological networks.
[PubMed - in process]