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Species Distributions and Climate Change

CEES project

Species Distributions and Climate Change

The geographical distribution of biological species is highly correlated with climate, soil and other physical factors. This implies that species distributions will shift in response to climate change, and other perturbations, in the future. But how, exactly? How quickly? And how might these shifts be affected by other perturbations, such as habitat fragmentation and invasive species?

This project aims to develop a suite of models that can enable better predictions of how tree species distributions might respond to climate change. We are following four research tracks at present, but these are not mutually exclusive and we hope to combine them in the near future:

(1) Developing a suite of next-generation bioclimate models which, unlike current models, are able to capture both the direct effects of climate on species distributions (climate --> species A), and the indirect effects of climate (climate --> species B --> species A).

(2) Deploying climate-dependent Spatial Patch Occupancy Models (SPOMs) to capture the dynamic balance of local extinctions and recolonizations that characterize the regional / continental scale dynamics of many species.

(3) Developing statistical methods to deal with problems common to species distribution modelling, including uncertainty in predictor variables and variable sampling effort.

(4) Using the PPA to understand how the climate-dependent biology of individual trees scales up to determine the structure and dynamics of forests and, therefore, the dynamics of tree species distributions (e.g. see this publication). See scaling from trees to forests.