Examining the mechanisms of species responses to climate change: Are there biological thresholds?

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Climate-change-driven shifts in distribution and abundance have been documented in many species. However, in order to better predict species responses, managers are seeking to understand the mechanisms that are driving these changes, including any thresholds that might soon be crossed. Leveraging the research that has already been supported by the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and its partners, this project used the latest modeling techniques combined with robust field data to examine the impact of specific climate variables, land use change, and species interactions on the future distribution and abundance of species of conservation concern. Moreover, this project documented biological thresholds related to climate variability and change for critical species in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. Specifically, our objectives were to identify the primary drivers (climate change vs. urban growth) of species distribution changes in the Northeast; examine the nature of species landscape capability change over time to identify potential thresholds; determine how changing temperatures and snowpack characteristics will drive species interactions; analyze the sensitivity of tree and bird responses to the magnitude, variability, periodicity, and seasonality of temperature and precipitation under climate change in the eastern U.S.; and identify how discrete climate triggers such as extreme events will correlate with known biological thresholds. Major outcomes included 1) refining the understanding of the mechanisms that drive projected changes in the distribution of vulnerable populations; and 2) improving how these results are conveyed to stakeholders by identifying understandable responses in the form of thresholds.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Examining the mechanisms of species responses to climate change: Are there biological thresholds?
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
Contributing office(s) Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
Description 34 p.
Country United States
State Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island. Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin
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