University of Oulu

García-Girón, J., Heino, J., Iversen, L. L., Helm, A., & Alahuhta, J. (2021). Rarity in freshwater vascular plants across Europe and North America: Patterns, mechanisms and future scenarios. Science of The Total Environment, 786, 147491.

Rarity in freshwater vascular plants across Europe and North America : patterns, mechanisms and future scenarios

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Author: García-Girón, Jorge1,2; Heino, Jani2; Lønsmann Iversen, Lars3;
Organizations: 1Ecology Unit, University of León, Campus de Vegazana S/N, 24071 León, Spain
2Finnish Environment Institute, Freshwater Centre, P.O. Box 413, FI–90014 Oulu, Finland
3Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, GLOBE Institute, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, Bld. 3, DK–2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
4Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
5Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI–90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-03


Patterns of species rarity have long fascinated ecologists, yet most of what we know about the natural world stems from studies of common species. A large proportion of freshwater plant species has small range sizes and are therefore considered rare. However, little is known about the mechanisms and geographical distribution of rarity in the aquatic realm and to what extent diversity of rare species in freshwater plants follows their terrestrial counterparts. Here, we present the first in–depth analysis of geographical patterns, potential deterministic ecogeographical factors and projected scenarios of freshwater vascular plant rarity using 50 × 50 km grid cells across Europe (41°N–71°N) and North America (25°N–78°N). Our results suggest that diversity of rare species shows different patterns in relation to latitude on the two continents, and that hotspots of rarity concentrate in a relatively small proportion of the European and North American land surface, especially in mountainous as well as in climatically rare and stable areas. Interestingly, we found no differences among alternative rarity definitions and measures when delineating areas with notably high diversity of rare species. Our findings also indicate that few variables, namely a combination of current climate, Late Quaternary climate–change velocity and human footprint, are able to accurately predict the location of continental centers of rare species diversity. However, these relationships are not geographically homogeneous, and the underlying factors likely act synergistically. Perhaps more importantly, we provide empirical evidence that current centers of rare species diversity are characterized by higher anthropogenic impacts and might shrink disproportionately within this century as the climate changes. Our reported distributional patterns of species rarity align with the known trends in species richness of other freshwater organisms and may help conservation planners make informed decisions mitigating the effects of climate change and other anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity.

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Series: Science of the total environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN-E: 1879-1026
ISSN-L: 0048-9697
Volume: 786
Article number: 147491
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147491
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: JGG and JH were partly supported by the Academy of Finland [grant 331957]. LLI was supported by the Carlsberg Foundation [grant CF19–0068]. JA received partial funding from the Academy of Finland [grant 322652].
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 331957
Detailed Information: 331957 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
322652 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: The original data are available in their primary sources, where they can be obtained from free open data repositories (Alahuhta et al., 2020).
Copyright information: © 2021 Elsevier B.V. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license