Riding an escalator: upward range shift and patterns of genetic response to climate change in Acer caudatifolium

Min Wei Chai, Yi Ting Tseng, Hsin Pei Lu, Min Xin Luo, Jui Tse Chang, Pei Chun Liao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Aim: Rapid global warming is threatening global biodiversity, and it will likely lead to varying degrees of local adaptation, particularly amongst plant species. Besides, rising temperatures frequently result in upslope distribution shifts towards climatic optima (i.e. the escalator effect) within a limited dispersal space, such as in insular environments. Here, we integrated ecological and genetic approaches to investigate how climate change will impact the genetic compositions and spatial distributions of Taiwan's endemic maple Acer caudatifolium. Location: Taiwan. Methods: We estimate the distribution range shifts of A. caudatifolium under climate change through species distribution modelling (SDM). We also use 368 genotyped samples to infer dispersal and genetic hotspots and quantify the contributions of geography/environments to genetic variations. We further assess the potential risk to A. caudatifolium under different climate warming scenarios. Results: We detected three genetic diversity hotspots near mountainous glacial refugia and two dispersal hotspots in northern Taiwan and the central-to-southern Central Mountain Range. Overall range reductions and an altitudinal upslope shift were observed in SDM. Using both linear and nonlinear regression approaches, we found that genetic variation was significantly associated with geographic distance and elevation-related climatic variables. The potential risk analysis revealed that the northernmost summit-dwelling populations were the most vulnerable. Furthermore, the major risk factor differed amongst populations: for central populations, temperature and precipitation jointly determined the potential risk, whereas precipitation was the only risk factor for northern and southern populations. Main conclusions: This case study demonstrates how various climate factors, mountain height and the availability of corridors jointly determine the demographic fates and sustainability of island maples in the face of climate change. This study also provided estimates of the implications of global warming, which can be conducive to developing appropriate conservation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1863-1874
Number of pages12
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept


  • Acer
  • Taiwan
  • climate change
  • elevational upshifting
  • local adaptation
  • risk of non-adaptedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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