Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Aim: Ecological niche theory states that realized niche breadth should increase with population growth. This relationship has been studied extensively in the context of density-dependent habitat selection, and there is evidence that animal populations at higher density occupy a wider range of vegetation types. To our knowledge, no previous studies have investigated the relationship between population growth and climate niche breadth (i.e. the range of climatic conditions occupied). Here we aim to estimate the influence of population trend, as well as changes in distribution, on realized climate niche breadth. Location: North America. Methods: We estimated changes in realized climate niche breadth and distribution between 1980 and 2012 for 46 bird species using data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and standard ecological niche modelling techniques. We analysed changes in niche breadth in relation to population trends and distributional changes from the BBS for these same species. Results: Changes in realized climate niche breadth were significantly and positively associated with population growth, as reflected by BBS population trends, and with changes in distributional extent. Using variance partitioning, we showed that 44.2% of the variation in change in niche breadth can be explained by population trend, and that roughly half of this was independent of changes in distribution. Conclusions: Realized climate niche breadth is variable on an ecological timescale as a function of population trend. Mechanisms associated with changes in distribution and those acting within current species range limits appear to be equally important in driving this relationship. Observed changes in niche breadth may violate distribution modelling assumptions of niche conservatism. Studying how population growth influences realized climate niche breadth is therefore important for understanding dynamic species distributions, responses to climate change and our ability to model future species distributions.

    Publication Notes

    • Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
    • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
    • During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
    • Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Ralston, Joel; DeLuca, William V.; Feldman, Richard E.; King, David I. 2016. Realized climate niche breadth varies with population trend and distribution in North American birds. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 25(10): 1173-1180.


    Google Scholar


    Abundance, Breeding Bird Survey, Grinnellian niche, Maxent, species distribution

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page