An integrative approach to modeling species distribution: combining correlative and mechanistic relationships to predict climate impacts on species

Mr Dan Crear1, Dr. Alistair Hobday2, Dr. Rob Latour1, Dr. Rich Brill1, Dr. Marjorie Friedrichs1, Dr. Pierre St. Laurent1, Dr. Kevin Weng1

1Virginia Institute Of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, United States, 2CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Australia

Climate change has contributed to warming and hypoxia throughout coastal ecosystems, which may impact future species distribution, phenology, and habitat selection. To determine the impact of environmental change on fish, it is critical to understand the underlying physiological mechanisms that drive their movement and behavior. By combining both correlative and mechanistic models, we may be able to achieve more accurate and comprehensive predictions that can be used to understand future climate change impacts on species distribution. We demonstrated this approach on two coastal predatory species, sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) and cobia (Rachycentron canadum). We developed correlative relationships from habitat data collected through telemetry or surveys for each species to determine environmental preferences. Mechanistic relationships from physiology data were collected through respirometry experiments and were used to determine environmental thresholds for each species. Correlative and mechanistic relationships were combined to create separate suitable habitat models for both species. The suitable habitat models are being used to forecast the distribution of these species seasonally, for mid-century, and end-of-century. Projections will be distributed to state and federal managers so they will have the flexibility to make decisions based on where species are expected to be at different time scales.


Dan is a PhD candidate at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary. He received his M.S. from California State University Long Beach and his B.S. in marine biology from the University of New England. His research interests are in fisheries science with a focus on climate change impacts on fisheries.

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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