How much does climate change threaten European forest tree species distributions?
Although numerous species distribution models have been developed, most were based on insufficient distribution data or used older climate change scenarios. We aimed to quantify changes in projected ranges and threat level by the years 2061-2080, for 12 European forest tree species under three climate change scenarios. We combined tree distribution data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, EUFORGEN, and forest inventories, and we developed species distribution models using MaxEnt and 19 bioclimatic variables. Models were developed for three climate change scenarios - optimistic (RCP2.6), moderate (RCP4.5), and pessimistic (RPC8.5) - using three General Circulation Models, for the period 2061-2080. Our study revealed different responses of tree species to projected climate change. The species may be divided into three groups: "winners" - mostly late-successional species: Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior, Quercus robur, and Quercus petraea; "losers" - mostly pioneer species: Betula pendula, Larix decidua, Picea abies, and Pinus sylvestris; and alien species - Pseudotsuga menziesii, Quercus rubra, and Robinia pseudoacacia, which may be also considered as "winners." Assuming limited migration, most of the species studied would face a significant decrease in suitable habitat area. The threat level was highest for species that currently have the northernmost distribution centers. Ecological consequences of the projected range contractions would be serious for both forest management and nature conservation.