Biodiversity of Pantepui - Chapter 17: Pantepui and global warming

Elsevier, Biodiversity of Pantepui: The Pristine “Lost World” of the Neotropical Guiana Highlands, 2019, Pages 403-417
Valentí Rull, Sandra Nogu, Elisabet Safont, Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia

Conservation-related concerns about Pantepui usually pertain to direct human impacts (biopiracy, invader species, fire, contamination, etc.), and little attention has been paid to indirect threats, such as global warming (GW). This chapter summarizes the studies carried out to date aimed at estimating the potential impact of the projected GW by the end of this century on the Pantepui biota, particularly on vascular plants. The main threat seems to be extinction caused by habitat loss due to the impossibility of upward migration on the flat summits of the tepuis. Potential extinction has been estimated on the basis of GW predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) using the altitudinal range shift (ARS) and species–area relationship (SAR) methods. The preliminary results suggest the potential extinction of up to approximately 80% of the vascular flora, including approximately 50% of the Pantepui–endemic species. Several in situ and ex situ protection measures are discussed in an attempt to palliate such eventual biodiversity depletion. The available extinction estimates are preliminary and based on homogeneous responses of all vascular plants to GW, which is not fully realistic but is all that can be done with the available information. Future studies should be aimed at refining extinction estimates, considering the eventual idiosyncratic responses of the different species, such as differential migration rates, phenotypic plasticity, or adaptive ability. However, the main handicap is the lack of autoecological information on Pantepui species and the unfeasibility of conducting such studies due to the bureaucratic impediments related to obtaining sampling permits. It is urgent to circumvent this situation if the biodiversity of Pantepui, one of the very few pristine locations left on our planet, is to be preserved.