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Species distribution of uncertainty

Posted date: January 23, 2015
Publication Year: 
Authors: Isaak, Daniel J.;
Document type: Briefing Papers


Concern over implications of climate change for biodiversity has led to the use of bioclimatic models to forecast range shifts of species under future climate-change scenarios. Forecast of species distributions under future climates are inherently uncertain, but there have been few attempts to understand and describe this uncertainty.

Key Findings:

  • Accurate forecasts of climate change impacts on extinction risks are critical for conservation management responses.
  • Uncertainty in species distributions should be taken into consideration in conservation planning and reserve design.
  • For bull trout, there are many areas where the amount of suitable habitat is projected to be near zero, with >95 percent certainty, even by the 2040s. Apparently the species is already living at the edge of its niche space in this geographic region, suggesting that these areas are likely to be poor conservation investments.
  • Areas where the amount of suitable habitat is highly uncertain in coming decades may be important locations to monitor, and potential candidates for restoration activities that could offset climate warming effects.

Related Publications

Wenger, Seth J. ; Som, Nicholas A. ; Dauwalter, Daniel C. ; Isaak, Daniel J. ; Neville, Helen M. ; Luce, Charles H. ; Dunham, Jason B. ; Young, Michael K. ; Fausch, Kurt D. ; Rieman, Bruce E. , 2013