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Data from: Are species’ responses to global change predicted by past niche evolution?


Lavergne, Sébastien et al. (2013), Data from: Are species’ responses to global change predicted by past niche evolution?, Dryad, Dataset,


Predicting how and when adaptive evolution might rescue species from global change, and integrating this process into tools of biodiversity forecasting, has now become an urgent task. Here we explored whether recent population trends of species can be explained by their past rate of niche evolution, which can be inferred from increasingly available phylogenetic and niche data. We examined the assemblage of 409 European bird species for which estimates of demographic trends between 1970 and 2000 are available, along with a species-level phylogeny and data on climatic, habitat, and trophic niches. We found that species’ proneness to demographic decline is associated with slow evolution of the habitat niche in the past, in addition to certain current-day life history and ecological traits. A similar result was found at a higher taxonomic level, where families prone to decline have had a history of slower evolution of climatic and habitat niches. Our results support the view that niche conservatism can prevent some species from coping with environmental change. Thus, linking patterns of past niche evolution and contemporary species dynamics for large species samples may provide insights into how niche evolution may rescue certain lineages in the face of global change.

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