Traditional plant hardiness zone maps identify areas that are relatively homogeneous with respect to climatic conditions that affect plant survival. Plants are typically categorized according to the most northerly, and sometimes the most southerly, zone in which they can successfully grow. This approach suffers from a number of limitations, including the coarse spatial nature of the zones and the relatively unsystematic assignment of plants to zones. Here we propose using climate envelopes to map the potential ranges of plant species in North America in wild and cultivated settings. We have initiated a major data-gathering effort that currently includes over 1.8 million georeferenced observations for more than 4100 plant species. We demonstrate the approach using sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and show the ease with which predicted climate-change impacts can be incorporated into the models.
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Vol. 57 • No. 11