Cumulative effects of land use, altered fire regime and climate change on persistence of Ceanothus verrucosus, a rare, fire-dependent plant species

Dawn M. Lawson, Helen M. Regan, Paul H. Zedler, Janet Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Mediterranean ecosystems are among the highest in species richness and endemism globally and are also among the most sensitive to climate and land-use change. Fire is an important driver of ecosystem processes in these systems; however, fire regimes have been substantially changed by human activities. Climate change is predicted to further alter fire regimes and species distributions, leading to habitat loss and threatening biodiversity. It is currently unknown what the population-level effects of these landscape-level changes will be. We linked a spatially explicit stochastic population model to dynamic bioclimate envelopes to investigate the effects of climate change, habitat loss and fragm entation and altered fire regime on population abundances of a long-lived obligate seeding shrub, Ceanothus verrucosus, a rare endemic species of southern California. We tested a range of fire return intervals under the present and two future climate scenarios. We also assessed the impact of potential anthropogenic land-use change by excluding land identified as developable by local governments. We found that the 35-50 year fire return interval resulted in the highest population abundances. Expected minimum population abundance (EMA) declined gradually as fire return interval increased, but declined dramatically for shorter fire intervals. Simulated future development resulted in a 33% decline in EMA, but relatively stable population trajectories over the time frame modeled. Relative changes in EMA for alternative fire intervals were similar for all climate and habitat loss scenarios, except under the more severe climate scenario which resulted in a change in the relative ranking of the fire scenarios. Our results show climate change to be the most serious threat facing obligate seeding shrubs embedded in urban landscapes, resulting in population decline and increased local extirpation, and that likely interactions with other threats increase risks to these species. Taking account of parameter uncertainty did not alter our conclusions. Published 2010. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2518-2529
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Ceanothus verrucosus
  • Chaparral
  • Climate change
  • Fire
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Mediterranean systems
  • Obligate seeding shrub
  • Population model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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