The Velocity of Climate Change and Species Tracking in Global Mountains

Mr Wei-Ping Chan1,2,3, Dr Chris Thomas4, Dr Hung-Chi Kuo5, Dr I-Ching Chen6, Dr Sheng-Feng Shen1

1Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, 2Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, 3Bachelor Program in Data Science and Management, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, 4Department of Biology, University of York, York, UK, 5Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, 6Department of Life Sciences, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Species have been moving in response to recent changes in climate, but there is still a lack of systematic assessment on how climate change is affecting species movements in global mountains. Here, we provide the first global assessment of climate change velocity (in m year-¹) in mountain regions by dividing the temperature lapse rate (in °C km-¹) into the warming rate at terrain surfaces (in °C year-¹). We applied the moist adiabatic lapse rate (MALR), derived from local temperature and water vapor, and found that MALR varies substantially between 3 and 9 °C km-¹ around the world. Using this approach, we identified 23 high-velocity mountain regions and found that increasing surface temperature leads to higher climate velocity, especially in dry mountain regions. Intriguingly, high climate velocity could also occur in wet regions with lower lapse rates, especially in mountains go NE-SW and NW-SE in North and South hemisphere, respectively. We then re-estimated the rates at which species would have to shift to keep pace with climate change. We found that the degree of lagging may be overestimated in previous meta-analyses. In the cases of low climate velocity, mountain species track reasonably well with climate velocity. In contrast, upslope migrations of mountain species substantially lagged behind the climate change in regions with high climate velocity. In conclusion, our study helps identify mountains with high climate velocity, which can inform conservation priorities as well as provide a better physical basis for understanding the ecological impacts of global climate change in mountain regions.


I am interested in under-laying physical environment shaping global ecological patterns, and I pay special attention to those impacts of climate change.

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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