Fagus mexicana Martínez (Mexican beech) is an endangered Arcto-Tertiary Geoflora tree species that inhabit isolated and fragmented tropical montane cloud forests in eastern Mexico. Exploring past, present, and future climate change effects on the distribution of Mexican beech involves the study of spatial ecology and temporal patterns to develop conservation plans. These are key to understanding the niche conservatism of other forest communities with similar environmental requirements. For this study, we used species distribution models by combining occurrence records, to assess the distribution patterns and changes of the past (Last Glacial Maximum), present (1981–2010), and future (2040–2070) periods under two climate scenarios (SSP 3-7.0 & SSP 5-8.5). Next, we determined the habitat suitability and priority conservation areas of Mexican beech as associated with topography, land cover use, distance to the nearest town, and environmental variables. By considering the distribution of Mexican beech during different periods and under different climate scenarios, our study estimated that high-impact areas of Mexican beech forests were restricted to specific areas of the Sierra Madre Oriental that constitute refugia from the Last Glacial Maximum. Regrettably, our results exhibited that Mexican beech distribution has decreased 71.3% since the Last Glacial Maximum and this trend will for the next 50 years, migrating to specific refugia at higher altitudes. This suggests that the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz, and Puebla will preserve the habitat suitability features as ecological refugia, related to high moisture and north-facing slopes. For isolated and difficult-to-access areas, the proposed methods are powerful tools for relict-tree species, which deserve further conservation.
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