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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Unravelling the effects of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproduction of forest herbs

De Frenne, P.; Kolb, A.; Verheyen, K.; Brunet, J.; Chabrerie, O.; Decocq, G.; Diekmann, M.; Eriksson, O.; Heinken, T.; Hermy, M.; Jogar, Ue.; Stanton, S.; Quataert, P.; Zindel, R.; Zobel, M.; Graae, B. J.


AimTo investigate the effect of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproductive traits of widespread perennial forest herbs to better understand the potential impacts of rising temperatures on their population dynamics and colonization capacities.LocationSix regions along a latitudinal gradient from France to Sweden.MethodsWithin each region, we collected data from three to five populations of up to six species. For each species, several variables were recorded in each region (temperature, latitude) and population (local abiotic and biotic environmental variables), and seed production and germination were estimated. Resource investment in reproduction (RIR) was quantified as seed number x seed mass, while germinable seed output (GSO) was expressed as seed number x germination percentage. We performed linear regression and mixed effect models to investigate the effects of temperature (growing degree hours), latitude and local abiotic and biotic environment on RIR and GSO.ResultsTemperature and latitude explained most of the variation in RIR and GSO for early flowering species with a northerly distribution range edge (Anemone nemorosa, Paris quadrifolia and Oxalis acetosella). Reproduction of the more southerly distributed species (Brachypodium sylvaticum, Circaea lutetiana and Primula elatior), in contrast, was independent of temperature/latitude. In the late summer species, B. sylvaticum and C. lutetiana, variation in RIR and GSO was best explained by local environmental variables, while none of the investigated variables appeared to be related to reproduction in P. elatior.Main conclusionsWe showed that reproduction of only two early flowering, northerly distributed species was related to temperature. This suggests that the potential reproductive response of forest herbs to climate warming partly depends on their phenology and distribution, but also that the response is to some extent species dependent. These findings should be taken into account when predictions about future shifts in distribution range are made.


Climate change; Europe; herbaceous forest species; latitudinal gradient; reproduction; seeds; temperature

Published in

Global Ecology and Biogeography
2009, Volume: 18, number: 6, pages: 641-651

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)