Climate change and elevational diversity capacity: do weedy species take up the slack? Academic Article uri icon


  • Climate change leads to species range shifts and consequently to changes in diversity. For many systems, increases in diversity capacity have been forecast, with spare capacity to be taken up by a pool of weedy species moved around by humans. Few tests of this hypothesis have been undertaken, and in many temperate systems, climate change impacts may be confounded by simultaneous increases in human-related disturbance, which also promote weedy species. Areas to which weedy species are being introduced, but with little human disturbance, are therefore ideal for testing the idea. We make predictions about how such diversity capacity increases play out across elevational gradients in non-water-limited systems. Then, using modern and historical data on the elevational range of indigenous and naturalized alien vascular plant species from the relatively undisturbed sub-Antarctic Marion Island, we show that alien species have contributed significantly to filling available diversity capacity and that increases in energy availability rather than disturbance are the probable underlying cause.


  • Chown, Steven L
  • le Roux, Peter C
  • Ramaswiela, Tshililo
  • Kalwij, Jesse M
  • Shaw, Justine D
  • McGeoch, Melodie A

publication date

  • February 23, 2013