Different species, populations, and individuals disperse and migrate at different rates. The rate of movement that occurs in response to changes in climate, whether fast or slow, will shape the distribution of natural ecosystems in the decades to come. Moreover, land-use patterns associated with urban, suburban, rural, and agricultural development will complicate ecosystem adaptation to climate change by hindering migration. Here we examine how vegetation's capacity to disperse and migrate may affect the biophysical and biogeochemical characteristics of the land surface under anthropogenic climate change. We demonstrate that the effectiveness of plant migration strongly influences carbon storage, evapotranspiration, and the absorption of solar radiation by the land surface. As a result, plant migration affects the magnitude, and in some cases the sign, of feedbacks from the land surface to the climate system. We conclude that future climate projections depend on much better understanding of and accounting for dispersal and migration.
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Vol. 56 • No. 5