Past, present, and future geographic range of the relict Mediterranean and Macaronesian Juniperus phoenicea complex

Ecol Evol. 2021 Mar 25;11(10):5075-5095. doi: 10.1002/ece3.7395. eCollection 2021 May.


Aim: The aim of this study is to model the past, current, and future distribution of J. phoenicea s.s., J. turbinata, and J. canariensis, based on bioclimatic variables using a maximum entropy model (Maxent) in the Mediterranean and Macaronesian regions.

Location: Mediterranean and Macaronesian.

Taxon: Cupressaceae, Juniperus.

Methods: Data on the occurrence of the J. phoenicea complex were obtained from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (, the literature, herbaria, and the authors' field notes. Bioclimatic variables were obtained from the WorldClim database and Paleoclim. The climate data related to species localities were used for predictions of niches by implementation of Maxent, and the model was evaluated with ENMeval.

Results: The potential niches of Juniperus phoenicea during the Last Interglacial period (LIG), Last Glacial Maximum climate (LGM), and Mid-Holocene (MH) covered 30%, 10%, and almost 100%, respectively, of the current potential niche. Climate warming may reduce potential niches by 30% in RCP2.6 and by 90% in RCP8.5. The potential niches of Juniperus turbinata had a broad circum-Mediterranean and Canarian distribution during the LIG and the MH; its distribution extended during the LGM when it was found in more areas than at present. The predicted warming in scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 could reduce the current potential niche by 30% and 50%, respectively. The model did not find suitable niches for J. canariensis during the LIG and the LGM, but during the MH its potential niche was 30% larger than at present. The climate warming scenario RCP2.6 indicates a reduction in the potential niche by 30%, while RCP8.5 so indicates a reduction of almost 60%.

Main conclusions: This research can provide information for increasing the protection of the juniper forest and for counteracting the phenomenon of local extinctions caused by anthropic pressure and climate changes.

Keywords: Juniperus canariensis; Juniperus phoenicea; Juniperus turbinata; biodiversity; biogeography; climate change; niche modeling; relict tree.