Posts Tagged ‘climate change vulnerabilty’

The decimation of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

It is honestly with sadness that I announce our new publication on the fate of Madagscar’s rainforest habitat in Nature Climate Change. Modeling deforestation assuming the lowest rate of deforestation across the period 2000-2014, I could only get the rainforest to last to the 2070s… and the highest rate of loss occurred in 2018, outside the time period over which I had data. The slight hope is that protected areas are deforested at a slower rate, and if were to (unrealistically) assume no new deforestation in these areas, then some rainforest habitat would remain.

Morelli*, T.L., Smith*, A.B., Mancini, A.N., Balko, E. A., Borgenson, C., Dolch, R., Farris, Z., Federman, S., Golden, C.D., Holmes, S., Irwin, M., Jacobs, R.L., Johnson, S., King, T., Lehman, S., Louis, E.E. Jr., Murphy, A., Randriahaingo, H.N.T., Lucien, Randriannarimanana, H.L.L., Ratsimbazafy, J., Razafindratsima, O.H., and Baden, A.L. 2019. The fate of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat. Nature Climate Change 10:89-96. * Equal contribution. (article | “behind the paper” | Washington Post | National Geographic | The Conversation | ScienceDaily)


Friday, July 8th, 2016

CliffhangerI think I was on a long-haul flight across the Pacific when I succumbed to jet-lag induced doldrums and watched Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger which stars him (surprise) as a mountaineer who gets himself out of a dastardly plot by climbing around and flexing his muscles. So if there’s a Rocky of the rare plant world, it’s Appalachian avens, or Geum radiatum.

Like Stallone, Geum likes to hang on cliffs in the Southern Appalachians. And talk about hang!  Eric Menges sent me a few photos of their field work–they use ladders to census the populations.  Now there are also a few populations found on so-called grassy balds (I am fond of this name), but the cliffside populations tend to be more common.  And these cliffs occur at high elevations where the distinction between cloud and mist dissipates.

Geum radiatum

Geum radiatum (Wikimedia)

And like Stallone Geum is threatened–so much so it’s listed on the US Endangered Species Act.  In fact Pedro Quintana-Ascencio‘s models predict that the overall growth rate of the populations for which they have census data is currently below replacement level.  But–intriguingly–growth rate is highly positively linked to relative humidity.

Which is really cool in a technical way–because I was able to extract coarse-scale humidity data from the ClimateNA dataset, then relate this to their fine-scale measurements.  And this in turn allowed Pedro to predict population growth rates under future scenarios of climate change.


“Hang in there, Geum!”

Alas, Geum needs a strongman like Stallone… even though we predicted relative humidity will drop by just a few percent, that’s enough to exacerbate the species’ current downward trajectory.  It’s a slow fall, but it’s still a fall.



Ulrey, C., Quiantana-Ascencio, P.F., Kauffman, G., Smith, A.B., and Menges, E.S.  2016.  Life at the top: Long-term demography, microclimatic refugia, and responses to climate change for a high-elevation southern Appalachian endemic plant.  Biological Conservation 200:80-92. (article page)