Climate change increases potential plant species richness on Puerto Rican uplands.
Modeling climate change effects on species and communities is critical especially in isolated islands. We analyzed the potential effects of climate change on 200 plant species in Puerto Rico under two emission scenarios and in four periods over the twenty-first century. Our approach was based on ensemble bioclimatic modeling using eight modeling algorithms and community richness analysis. Our findings showed that the probabilities of environmental suitability decline for wet climate species and increase for drier and warm climate species in the future periods under both emission scenarios, with stronger effects under the higher emission scenario. Expansion of dry climate species to higher elevations appears to be a prominent response of species to climatic change in the island based on changes in environmental suitability but the actual species redistribution will be influenced by their life histories, potential adaptation, dispersal abilities, species introductions, and species interactions. This potential movement leads to a spatial pattern of species richness at site level that shows a positive relationship with elevation, which becomes stronger in the later periods of the century. The spatial pattern of species richness, if combined with single species projections, can provide critical information for conservation management in the island. Conservation management can support island-wide biological diversity by protecting the wet climate species on the uplands.