The high-mountain ecosystems of Central Asia are a biodiversity hotspot with unique plant communities and many endemic species. Intense human pressure and global warming have caused habitat destruction in these areas and a parallel increase in the number of endangered species. Lagochilus species are key medicinal herbaceous plants native to Central Asia, many of which have been recently added to the endangered of species in Uzbekistan. To assess the climate sensitivity of Lagochilus species, we (1) located populations of six species in their native sites across Uzbekistan, and assessed their health by partitioning to ontogenetic stages along five consecutive years; (2) collected plant materials from these species, as well as from old herbarium samples (1918–1964); and (3) analyzed the carbon-13 composition in those samples, as an indicator for drouht stress. Over the course of five years (2014–2018) of continuous monitoring, fluctuations in annual precipitation in the region indicated a decrease by ∼20 %, and the fraction of young plants in each population decreased from 20–50% to 0–5 %, depending on the species. Comparing the carbon-13 composition in current and historical leaf samples showed an increase of 1.5–3.5‰ associated with a decrease in precipitation of 2–30 %, depending on the site and species. Our results show the high sensitivity of Lagochilus populations’ regeneration to drying, among six species and in sites across Uzbekistan. On a multi-decadal temporal scale, the dramatic changes in carbon-13 indicate that the response to precipitation reduction is related with drought stress. Considering the expectation for drier and hotter climate in Uzbekistan in the coming decades, conservation of Lagochilus populations should become a priority in Central Asia.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics|
|Early online date||4 Dec 2020|
|State||Published - Feb 2021|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science