Current climate, isolation and history drive global patterns of tree phylogenetic endemism

Brody Sandel*, Patrick Weigelt, Holger Kreft, Gunnar Keppel, Masha T. van der Sande, Sam Levin, Stephen Smith, Dylan Craven, Tiffany M. Knight

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We mapped global patterns of tree phylogenetic endemism (PE) to identify hotspots and test hypotheses about possible drivers. Specifically, we tested hypotheses related to current climate, geographical characteristics and historical conditions and assessed their relative importance in shaping PE patterns. Location: Global. Time period: We used the present distribution of trees, and predictors covering conditions from the mid-Miocene to present. Major taxa studied: All seed-bearing trees. Methods: We compiled distributions for 58,542 tree species across 463 regions worldwide, matched these to a recent phylogeny of seed plants and calculated PE for each region. We used a suite of predictor variables describing current climate (e.g., mean annual temperature), geographical characteristics (e.g., isolation) and historical conditions (e.g., tree cover at the Last Glacial Maximum) in a spatial regression model to explain variation in PE. Results: Tree PE was highest on islands, and was higher closer to the equator. All three groups of predictor variables contributed substantially to the PE pattern. Isolation and topographic heterogeneity promoted high PE, as did high current tree cover. Among mainland regions, temperature seasonality was strongly negatively related to PE, while mean annual temperature was positively related to PE on islands. Some relationships differed among the major floristic regions. For example, tree cover at the Last Glacial Maximum was a positive predictor of PE in the Palaeotropics, while tree cover at the Miocene was a negative predictor of PE in the Neotropics. Main conclusions: Globally, PE can be explained by a combination of geographical, historical and current factors. Some geographical variables appear to be key predictors of PE. However, the impact of historic and current climate variables differs considerably among the major floristic regions, reflecting their unique histories. Hence, the current distribution of trees is the result of globally relevant geographical drivers and regional climatic histories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-15
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • biogeography
  • climate stability
  • historical contingency
  • islands
  • isolation
  • phylogenetic endemism
  • trees

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