Response of spatial vegetation distribution in China to climate changes since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM)

Analyzing how climate change affects vegetation distribution is one of the central issues of global change ecology as this has important implications for the carbon budget of terrestrial vegetation. Mapping vegetation distribution under historical climate scenarios is essential for understanding the response of vegetation distribution to future climatic changes. The reconstructions of palaeovegetation based on pollen data provide a useful method to understand the relationship between climate and vegetation distribution. However, this method is limited in time and space. Here, using species distribution model (SDM) approaches, we explored the climatic determinants of contemporary vegetation distribution and reconstructed the distribution of Chinese vegetation during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 18,000 C-14 yr BP) and Middle-Holocene (MH, 6000 C-14 yr BP). The dynamics of vegetation distribution since the LGM reconstructed by SDMs were largely consistent with those based on pollen data, suggesting that the SDM approach is a useful tool for studying historical vegetation dynamics and its response to climate change across time and space. Comparison between the modeled contemporary potential natural vegetation distribution and the observed contemporary distribution suggests that temperate deciduous forests, subtropical evergreen broadleaf forests, temperate deciduous shrublands and temperate steppe have low range fillings and are strongly influenced by human activities. In general, the Tibetan Plateau, North and Northeast China, and the areas near the 30 degrees N in Central and Southeast China appeared to have experienced the highest turnover in vegetation due to climate change from the LGM to the present.