Dispersal behaviour, connectivity, and range shifts: a wicked problem with innovative solutions?

Veronica A. J. Doerr (1), Erik D. Doerr (2)

1 CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, veronica.doerr@csiro.au

2 CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, erik.doerr@csiro.au

Barriers to a species’ ability to shift its range tend to focus on the mismatch between dispersal distances and the velocity of climate change. Our research on dispersal behaviour of woodland birds suggests that dispersal behaviour may critically interact with distance, resulting in even greater limitations to successful range shifts than previously suspected.  For example, many species use foray-based search tactics and turn around if they encounter vacant habitat without other individuals to interact with.  However, a deeper understanding  of  the  behavioural  mechanisms  of  dispersal  and  range  shifts  may  also  hint  at  new, innovative solutions to climate adaptation. These range from minor adjustments to landscape management (like targeting spatial planning and connectivity to produce more dispersers) to more outside-the-box solutions (like deliberately stressing individuals to push more of them into the tail of the dispersal distance distribution).  While the more innovative solutions can seem confronting and may ultimately be deemed too risky, we show how an understanding of the behavioural mechanisms of change can and should be used to broaden the conversation about adaptation solutions.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.


Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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