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Spatial extent drives patterns of relative climate change sensitivity for freshwater fishes of the United States

March 14, 2024

Assessing the sensitivity of freshwater species to climate change is an essential component of prioritizing conservation efforts for threatened freshwater ecosystems and organisms. Sensitivity to climate change can be systematically evaluated for multiple species using geographic attributes such as range size and climate niche breadth, and using species traits associated with climate change sensitivity. These systematic evaluations produce relative rankings of species sensitivity to aid conservation prioritization and to identify relatively sensitive species that may otherwise be understudied or overlooked. Due in part to biogeographic constraints, species assemblages change across regions and spatial extents; yet, the degree to which spatial factors influence relative rankings of species sensitivity is unclear. The spatial extent of multispecies analyses may alter relative rankings of species climate sensitivity; alternatively, relative climate sensitivity may be conserved among spatial scales, resulting in consistent identification of sensitive species among regions and spatial extents. We investigated how spatial extent influences our understanding of relative climate sensitivity for 137 native freshwater fishes of the United States that were representative of taxonomic, trait, and geographic diversity. Using publicly available occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, we calculated a systematic, geographically derived index of climate change sensitivity for study species at national and regional extents, including within four major hydrologic subregions of the United States. We examined the effects of spatial extent on the relative ranking of climate sensitivity among species, and we explored relationships among climate sensitivity, species traits, and conservation status at regional and national extents. We found that climate sensitivity rankings of species were influenced by spatial extent in some specific instances, but that relative rankings were largely conserved across spatial scales. However, correlations among geographically derived climate sensitivity rankings and species traits associated with climate sensitivity were variable across scales and regions, suggesting that links between geographic rarity and species traits may be scale-dependent in some cases. Finally, we found few associations between climate sensitivity and current conservation status among species. Systematic approaches to quantifying climate sensitivity may offer an opportunity to identify sensitive but overlooked species for pre-listing actions such as monitoring or conservation agreements.

Publication Year 2024
Title Spatial extent drives patterns of relative climate change sensitivity for freshwater fishes of the United States
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.4779
Authors Samuel C. Silknetter, Abigail Benson, Jennifer A. Smith, Meryl C. Mims
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70252274
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Science Analytics and Synthesis