Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

In a new synthesis study, CASC researchers found that species don’t always shift their ranges in the directions we expect them to following climate change.

Climate change affects every species differently. Some tolerate or even benefit from their new conditions, while others move in search of more comfortable climates. In a 2020 survey of state and territorial fish and wildlife employees conducted by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), respondents identified “understanding shifting species distributions” as among their highest priority climate information needs.  

In a new paper in Environmental Evidence, researchers from across the CASC network conducted a systemic literature review of climate-induced range shifts. They tested whether real-life range shifts followed the prevailing hypothesis that species will generally follow cooler temperatures – moving to higher latitudes, greater elevations, or deeper depths in response to warming climates. They reviewed 315 papers, looking at both the direction and speed of reported shifts. They found that a little less than half the studies reported range shifts in the expected directions, with 49.7% of species shifting poleward, 42.9% shifting higher in altitude, and only 36.3% shifting deeper underwater. They also found variation in how fast range shifts were occurring based on range shift direction, taxa, and position within the population (leading edge versus trailing edge). 

Overall, these results indicate that it is important to consider the specific needs and habitat conditions of a species to understand if and how they will move following climate change. The authors intend to publish their list of range shift papers through an upcoming USGS data release, creating a resource for researchers seeking to explore more specific questions about climate-induced range shifts.  

This work was supported by the National CASC project Understanding Species' Range Shifts in Response to Climate Change: Results from a Systematic National Review.” 

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.