Understanding Species' Range Shifts in Response to Climate Change: Results from a Systematic National Review

Science Center Objects

Climate change represents one of the foremost drivers of ecological change, yet its documented impacts on biodiversity remain uncertain and complex. Although there have been many published studies on species shifting their geographic ranges in response to climate change, it is still challenging to identify the specific mechanisms and conditions that facilitate range shifts in some species and n...

Climate change represents one of the foremost drivers of ecological change, yet its documented impacts on biodiversity remain uncertain and complex. Although there have been many published studies on species shifting their geographic ranges in response to climate change, it is still challenging to identify the specific mechanisms and conditions that facilitate range shifts in some species and not in others. In addition, it can be difficult to disentangle climate-induced range shifts from other environmental changes which can also result in range shifts (such as changes to land use or habitat).

This project attempts to address these knowledge gaps by conducting a systematic literature review of documented cases of species’ range shifts in response to climate change. The project researchers are evaluating empirical evidence of climate-driven range shifts in the context of commonly-held hypotheses: i.e., that species will shift their range towards the poles and towards higher elevations. Conducting this analysis will enable the scientists to assess their overall confidence in these hypotheses, and to understand why some species conform to these expectations while others do not. Given the critical management importance of understanding where species will be distributed across the landscape in the future, this project will support more science-based decision-making, which can inform a range of climate adaptation and wildlife management strategies.