Poster Presentation: Coarse-resolution data overestimates species range shifts in response to climate change.

Dr Ilya Maclean, Miss Brittany Trew

1University Of Exeter, Penryn, United Kingdom

Abstract:

Over the last two decades bioclimate models have been widely used to predict distribution shifts in response to climate change. For many species, places with suitable climate are predicted to lie outside their current range, implying catastrophic consequences for life on earth. To date, however, climate change has been implicated as a major cause of the extinction of just a few species. Mounting evidence from palaeoecology provides a compelling explanation for this discrepancy. Many species survived periods of rapid climate change in microrefugia: locations with suitable microclimate that would be missed entirely by coarse-scale bioclimate models.  However, research in this emerging field has been hampered by a limited ability to model climates at sufficiently fine resolution. Here we present models that can be applied to provide accurate fine-grained, multidecadal estimates of climate change based on the physical processes that influence microclimate. We apply the models to project historic distributions of 321 plant species and forward to the present day and compare the results to those obtained using coarse-resolution data. We show that the results of bioclimate models are fundamentally linked to the grid cell resolution of the data used to drive them. Models that rely on coarse-resolution data predict major range shifts, whereas fine-scale models predict localised patterns of change that more closely match observed distribution changes.  In consequence, species translocations and the redesign of protected area networks to accommodate large-scale range shifts may be less effective than focusing on protecting populations of species within their existing geographic range.


Biography:

Current PhD candidate at the University of Exeter. Investigating fynbos species persistence in a changing climate through fine-scale microclimate modelling.

Species on the Move

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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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