Potential breeding distributions of U.S. birds predicted with both short-term variability and long-term average climate dataAuthor(s): Brooke L. Bateman; Anna M. Pidgeon; Volker C. Radeloff; Curtis H. Flather; Jeremy VanDerWal; H. Resit Akcakaya; Wayne E. Thogmartin; Thomas P. Albright; Stephen J. Vavrus; Patricia J. Heglund
Source: Ecological Applications. 26(8): 2718-2729.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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Climate conditions, such as temperature or precipitation, averaged over several decades strongly affect species distributions, as evidenced by experimental results and a plethora of models demonstrating statistical relations between species occurrences and long-term climate averages. However, long-term averages can conceal climate changes that have occurred in recent decades and may not capture actual species occurrence well because the distributions of species, especially at the edges of their range, are typically dynamic and may respond strongly to short-term climate variability. Our goal here was to test whether bird occurrence models can be predicted by either covariates based on short-term climate variability or on long-term climate averages. We parameterized species distribution models (SDMs) based on either short-term variability or long-term average climate covariates for 320 bird species in the conterminous USA and tested whether any life-history trait-based guilds were particularly sensitive to short-term conditions. Models including short-term climate variability performed well based on their cross-validated area-under- the- curve AUC score (0.85), as did models based on long-term climate averages (0.84). Similarly, both models performed well compared to independent presence/absence data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (independent AUC of 0.89 and 0.90, respectively). However, models based on short-term variability covariates more accurately classified true absences for most species (73% of true absences classified within the lowest quarter of environmental suitability vs. 68%). In addition, they have the advantage that they can reveal the dynamic relationship between species and their environment because they capture the spatial fluctuations of species potential breeding distributions. With this information, we can identify which species and guilds are sensitive to climate variability, identify sites of high conservation value where climate variability is low, and assess how species’ potential distributions may have already shifted due recent climate change. However, long-term climate averages require less data and processing time and may be more readily available for some areas of interest. Where data on short-term climate variability are not available, long-term climate information is a sufficient predictor of species distributions in many cases. However, short-term climate variability data may provide information not captured with long-term climate data for use in SDMs.
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Bateman, Brooke L.; Pidgeon, Anna M.; Radeloff, Volker C.; Flather, Curtis H.; VanDerWal, Jeremy; Akcakaya, H. Resit; Thogmartin, Wayne E.; Albright, Thomas P.; Vavrus, Stephen J.; Heglund, Patricia J. 2016. Potential breeding distributions of U.S. birds predicted with both short-term variability and long-term average climate data. Ecological Applications. 26(8): 2718-2729.
Keywordsclimate change, guilds, Maxent, North American breeding birds, species distribution model, species range
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