Published April 18, 2022 | Version v1
Dataset Open

Data for: Human food use increases plant geographic ranges in the Sonoran Desert

  • 1. University of California, Berkeley
  • 2. Arizona State University
  • 3. Desert Botanical Garden
  • 4. University of Arizona


Aim. Climate is usually regarded as the main determinant of plant species' distributions. However, past human use of species for food also may have influenced distributions. We hypothesized that human-mediated dispersal has resulted in food plants occupying more of their potential geographic range. We also hypothesized that key ecological traits could predispose a species to occupy more of its potential climatic geographic range and be selected by humans for food.

Location. The Sonoran Desert of southwestern North America.

Time period. Present day.

Major taxa studied. Food plants.

Methods. We used ethnobotanical and data from large botanical ecoinformatics databases to estimate realized (dispersal- and climate-constrained) and potential (climate-constrained) ranges for food plants and their used and un-used congeners.

Results. We found that food plants fill more of their potential geographic ranges than their un-used congeners. We also found that succulence and annual growth interacted with food usage to increase range filling.

Main conclusions. Human food use has expanded the distribution of many plant species in the Sonoran Desert.


File S1. A full plant list of Sonoran Desert food plants and congeners based on phylogenetic publications. (CSV format)

File S2. Range filling statistics estimated from species distribution models for all species in the dataset, combined with information on species distribution modeling parameters and data sample sizes. Model results are presented for 25 and 50 km grain size. (CSV format)

File S3. Trait values for all species in the dataset. (CSV format)

File S4. R code to replicate all data gathering steps, statistical analyses, and figures in this study. (TXT format)

Please see README enclosed in File S4 for usage instructions.



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