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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

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There are many barriers to species' migrations

  • Author(s): Feeley, Kenneth J
  • Rehm, Evan M.
  • Stroud, James
  • et al.

Temperature-change trajectories are being used to identify the geographic barriers and thermal ‘cul-de-sacs’ that will limit the ability of many species to track climate change by migrating. We argue that there are many other potential barriers to species’ migrations. These include stable ecotones, discordant shifts in climatic variables, human land use, and species’ limited dispersal abilities. To illustrate our argument, for each 0.5° latitude/longitude grid cell of the Earth’s land surface, we mapped and tallied the number of cells for which future (2060–2080) climate represents an analog of the focal cell’s current climate. We compared results when only considering temperature with those for which both temperature and total annual precipitation were considered in concert. We also compared results when accounting for only geographic barriers (no cross-continental migration) with those involving both geographic and potential ecological barriers (no cross-biome migration). As expected, the number of future climate analogs available to each pixel decreased markedly with each added layer of complexity (e.g. the proportion of the Earth’s land surface without any available future climate analogs increased from 3% to more than 36% with the inclusion of precipitation and ecological boundaries). While including additional variables can increase model complexity and uncertainty, we must strive to incorporate the factors that we know will limit species’ ranges and migrations if we hope to predict the effects of climate change at a high-enough degree of accuracy to guide management decisions.

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