Addressing potential local adaptation in species distribution models: implications for conservation under climate change

Ecological Applications
By: , and 

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Abstract

Species distribution models (SDMs) have been criticized for involving assumptions that ignore or categorize many ecologically relevant factors such as dispersal ability and biotic interactions. Another potential source of model error is the assumption that species are ecologically uniform in their climatic tolerances across their range. Typically, SDMs to treat a species as a single entity, although populations of many species differ due to local adaptation or other genetic differentiation. Not taking local adaptation into account, may lead to incorrect range prediction and therefore misplaced conservation efforts. A constraint is that we often do not know the degree to which populations are locally adapted, however. Lacking experimental evidence, we still can evaluate niche differentiation within a species' range to promote better conservation decisions. We explore possible conservation implications of making type I or type II errors in this context. For each of two species, we construct three separate MaxEnt models, one considering the species as a single population and two of disjunct populations. PCA analyses and response curves indicate different climate characteristics in the current environments of the populations. Model projections into future climates indicate minimal overlap between areas predicted to be climatically suitable by the whole species versus population-based models. We present a workflow for addressing uncertainty surrounding local adaptation in SDM application and illustrate the value of conducting population-based models to compare with whole-species models. These comparisons might result in more cautious management actions when alternative range outcomes are considered.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Addressing potential local adaptation in species distribution models: implications for conservation under climate change
Series title Ecological Applications
DOI 10.1890/15-0926
Volume 26
Issue 4
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 1154
Last page 1169
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N