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The distribution of potential hybrid zones depends largely on climate, habitat quality and historical biogeographic factors including dispersal and local extinctions. Global climate change can produce more favourable conditions for certain species to survive in areas that were previously unsuitable for their growth and/or their reproduction, and it may therefore change the potential for their hybridisation with closely related taxa. This chapter discusses general issues of plant hybridisation and invasiveness in the context of global climate change and presents a case study of hybrid ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior × F. angustifolia) that are mostly geographically separated in their natural range by climate but can have large hybrid zones. In general, both species are temporally separated by flowering times, which occur in early winter for F. angustifolia and in early spring for F. excelsior. In Ireland, introduced alien ash (F. angustifolia, F. excelsior × F. angustifolia hybrids, and non-native F. excelsior) can be found growing in sympatry with native F. excelsior populations. It is not known whether alien ash will hybridise with native populations or how climate change, principally in temperature and precipitation, will influence their hybridisation and invasiveness potential. We firstly examine the climate presently associated with known hybrid zones for ash in continental Europe and in Ireland. We then evaluate if a double CO2 global warming scenario (2 × CO2, CCM3 model) would provide improved climatic conditions for hybrids in Ireland and elsewhere.
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