Crop wild relatives range shifts and conservation in Europe under climate change

Jesus Aguirre Gutierrez*, R. van Treuren, R. Hoekstra, T.J.L. van Hintum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Climate change is expected to have a great impact on the distribution of wild flora around the world. Wild plant species are an important component of the genetic resources for crop improvement, which is especially important in face of climate change impacts. Still, many crop wild relatives (CWRs) are currently threatened in their natural habitat and are poorly represented in gene bank collections. To guide in situ conservation measures and to prioritize species for ex situ conservation, predictions are needed about future species distributions as a result of climate change. Location: Europe. Methods: Using species occurrence data and present and future climatic information, we investigated the possible impacts of future climate change on the European distribution of a selection of CWRs red-listed in the Netherlands using a species distribution modelling framework. The representation of the CWRs in European protected areas was investigated for the current and future climatic conditions. The models were created based on an optimistic (RCP 2.6) and pessimistic (RCP 8.5) climate change scenario. Results: A shift in distribution range, mostly towards northern locations, was observed for all investigated species. A loss of distribution area of up to 61.10% (full dispersal assumption) and 68.91% (no dispersal) according to RCP 2.6 was observed for some species. A distribution area loss of up to 90.92% (full dispersal) and 98.36% (no dispersal) was predicted for the most affected species under the RCP 8.5. Based on the predicted distribution in protected areas, present occupation in nature reserves appeared to be no guarantee for the species’ future protection and persistence. Main conclusions: We conclude that in situ conservation measures, ignoring the effects of climate change, will not be effective for many CWRs and that large-scale ex situ conservation actions are needed to safeguard CWRs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-750
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • climate change
  • ecological niche models
  • genetic diversity loss
  • protected areas
  • range shift
  • species distribution models


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