Ecol. Lett. (2014)

The ability of a species to track the changing spatial distribution of climatic conditions will be a key determinant of their continued success. The extent to which biotic interactions, such as competition, influence this ability remains largely unknown, hampering understanding of potential species distribution responses to climate change.

Marko Spasojevic, from the University of California Davis, and colleagues investigated these effects by transplanting three plant species from a region that had experienced recent rapid warming (The Siskiyou Mountains, USA) to sites that were colder due to their aspect and altitude. Adjacent plants were removed in some cases (while in others they were left) to investigate the role of inter-plant interactions in modulating the success of transplanted individuals.

After two years of monitoring, two of the species had greater success (as indicated by growth) in their new cooler locations, and this effect was enhanced for those with neighbouring plants. This positive interaction was explained in terms of a buffering of the minimum growing season temperatures experienced by plants with close neighbours.