How Climate Change Affects the Spread of Ancient Ginkgo Trees

Jenn Hoskins
17th May, 2024

How Climate Change Affects the Spread of Ancient Ginkgo Trees

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study focused on large old Ginkgo biloba trees (LOGTs) in China and their future under climate change
  • Researchers used advanced models to predict LOGTs' future habitats under current and doubled-CO2 scenarios for 2100
  • Suitable habitats for LOGTs will shrink, especially at the southern edge, and face fragmentation, threatening genetic diversity and survival
Large old Ginkgo biloba trees (LOGTs), with their profound ecological and cultural significance in China, face increasing threats from climate change and human activities. A recent study conducted by researchers at Qiongtai Normal University used advanced species distribution models to predict the future spatial patterns of these trees under current and doubled-CO2 climate scenarios projected for the year 2100[1]. This research is crucial for understanding how climate change may impact the long-term survival of these ancient trees and for developing practical conservation strategies. Ginkgo biloba, often referred to as a "living fossil," has a remarkable history dating back to the early Permian period, approximately 280 million years ago[2]. Despite its ancient lineage, the species has managed to survive numerous climatic changes and now exists mainly in China, though it has been distributed globally by humans over the past few centuries. The unique genetic makeup and resilience of Ginkgo biloba, including its dioecious reproduction (having distinct male and female trees), have been well-documented[3]. However, the survival of large old Ginkgo trees is now under threat due to modern climate dynamics. The study utilized 604 validated occurrence records of LOGTs and data on 19 bioclimatic factors to model their current and future distributions using the BIOCLIM and DOMAIN models. These models are used to predict suitable habitats for species based on climatic variables. The researchers found that the current geographic distribution of LOGTs spans a wide latitudinal belt from south subtropical to temperate zones in central and eastern China, primarily in low elevations and coastal regions. Principal component analysis revealed that annual precipitation and low winter temperatures are the dominant bioclimatic factors shaping this distribution. Under the present climate, the models accurately predicted the suitable habitats for LOGTs, aligning well with their known distribution. However, the future climate scenario with doubled CO2 levels paints a more concerning picture. The models indicate that suitable habitats will largely be retained in the core distribution areas but will suffer significant losses at the southern edge of the current range and in scattered pockets elsewhere. Moreover, some of the retained habitats will face fragmentation, which poses a risk to gene flow and the overall genetic diversity of the species. This projected range decline highlights the substantial threats posed by climate change to the long-term survival of LOGTs. Fragmentation of habitats could lead to isolated populations, making it difficult for trees to maintain genetic diversity and resilience. The study's findings underscore the importance of understanding the distribution patterns and the bioclimatic factors influencing them to develop effective conservation strategies. The cultural significance of large old trees, including Ginkgo biloba, cannot be overstated. In many cultures, these trees are revered and hold symbolic, religious, and historic values[4]. The study's findings are not only significant for ecological conservation but also for preserving the cultural heritage associated with these ancient trees. Integrating the social and cultural values of LOGTs into conservation policies can strengthen efforts to protect them by highlighting the synergies between ecological and human-related values. In conclusion, the study by Qiongtai Normal University provides crucial insights into the future distribution of large old Ginkgo biloba trees under changing climate conditions. By identifying the key bioclimatic factors and potential future habitats, this research offers a foundation for developing practical conservation measures. Protecting these trees is essential not only for maintaining biodiversity but also for preserving the rich cultural heritage they embody.

EnvironmentEcologyPlant Science


Main Study

1) Distribution pattern of large old Ginkgo biloba in China under climate change scenarios.

Published 17th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Phylogeography of a living fossil: pleistocene glaciations forced Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae) into two refuge areas in China with limited subsequent postglacial expansion.

3) Draft genome of the living fossil Ginkgo biloba.

Journal: GigaScience, Issue: Vol 5, Issue 1, Nov 2016

4) Incorporating social and cultural significance of large old trees in conservation policy.

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