Species distribution models are powerful tools that can be used to define contemporary geographic ranges and determine anticipated shifts in distribution caused by global climate change. Current studies have begun to correlate results from these analyses with species traits and phylogenetic relationships, to better understand how current and projected distributions relate to various functional traits and niche divergence. Here, we utilize species distribution models to quantify the climatic niche of all fern species found in Florida. We then examine what environmental factors are driving the distribution of each species and correlate this with morphological traits that may be responsible for species’ success in specific environmental conditions. We also project these distribution models into the future to determine how each species will respond to predicted climatic changes.
Preliminary results indicate that much of the Floridian fern diversity is in the southern portion of the state, near the Miami area. This is likely because of the subtropical climate, in which many tropical ferns found in Central and South America can extend their ranges. Projected distributions for the year 2070 indicate that very few species will expand their distributions in the future, but the vast majority of Floridian fern species will experience severe reductions throughout their geographic distributions. Additionally, preliminary results from a principal components analysis indicate that species diverge in their tolerance for warmer temperatures and greater amounts of precipitation. These divergences display a phylogenetic pattern, with species from the same genus occupying similar temperatures or precipitation regimes.