Effects of Quaternary Climatic Fluctuations on the Distribution of Neotropical Savanna Tree Species

Marcelo Bueno, R. Toby Pennington, Kyle Dexter, Luciana Kamino, Vanessa Pontara, Danilo Neves, James A. Ratter, Ary Oliveira-Filho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to develop niche models for tree species characteristic of the
cerrado vegetation (woody savannas) of central South America, and to
hindcast their distributions during the Last Glacial Maximum and Last Inter-
Glacial, we compiled a dataset of tree species checklists for typical cerrado
vegetation (n=282) and other geographically co-occurring vegetation
types, e.g. seasonally dry tropical forest (n=355). We then performed an
Indicator Species Analysis to select ten species that best characterize
typical cerrado vegetation and developed niche models for them using the
Maxent algorithm. We used these models to assess the probability of
occurrence of each species across South America at the following time
slices: Current (0 ka pre-industrial), Holocene (6 ka BP), Last Glacial
Maximum (LGM - 21 ka BP), and Last Interglacial (LIG - 130 ka BP). The
niche models were robust for all species and showed the highest probability
of occurrence in the core area of the Cerrado Domain. The palaeomodels
suggested changes in the distributions of cerrado tree species throughout
the Quaternary, with expansion during the LIG into the adjacent
Amazonian and Atlantic moist forests, as well as connections with other
South American savannas. The LGM models suggested a retraction of
cerrado vegetation to inter-tableland depressions and slopes of the Central
Brazilian Highlands. Contrary to previous hypotheses, such as the
Pleistocene Refuge Theory, we found that the widest expansion of cerrado
tree species seems to have occurred during the LIG, most probably due to
its warmer climate. On the other hand, the postulated retractions during
the LGM were likely related to both decreased precipitation and
temperature. These results are congruent with palynological and
phylogeographic studies in the Cerrado Domain.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date26 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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