Data from: Upward elevation and northwest range shifts for alpine Meconopsis species in the Himalaya-Hengduan Mountains region
He, Xie et al. (2019), Data from: Upward elevation and northwest range shifts for alpine Meconopsis species in the Himalaya-Hengduan Mountains region, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.d5872s4
Climate change may impact the distribution of species by shifting their ranges to higher elevations or higher latitudes. The impacts on alpine plant species may be particularly profound due to a potential lack of availability of future suitable habitat. To identify how alpine species have responded to climate change during the past century as well as to predict how they may react to possible global climate change scenarios in the future, we investigate the climatic responses of seven species of Meconopsis, a representative genus endemic in the alpine meadow and subnival region of the Himalaya–Hengduan Mountains. We analyzed past elevational shifts, as well as projected shifts in longitude, latitude, elevation, and range size using historical specimen records and species distribution modeling under optimistic (RCP 4.5) and pessimistic (RCP 8.5) scenarios across three general circulation models for 2070. Our results indicate that across all seven species, there has been an upward shift in mean elevation of 302.3 m between the pre‐1970s (1922–1969) and the post‐1970s (1970–2016). The model predictions suggest that the future suitable climate space will continue to shift upwards in elevation (as well as northwards and westwards) by 2070. While for most of the analyzed species, the area of suitable climate space is predicted to expand under the optimistic emission scenario, the area contracts, or, at best, shows little change under the pessimistic scenario. Species such as M. punicea, which already occupy high latitudes, are consistently predicted to experience a contraction of suitable climate space across all the models by 2070 and may consequently deserve particular attention by conservation strategies. Collectively, our results suggest that the alpine high‐latitude species analyzed here have already been significantly impacted by climate change and that these trends may continue over the coming decades.