Detecting the biological impacts of climate change is a current focus of ecological research and has important applications in conservation and resource management. Owing to a lack of suitable control systems, measuring correlations between time series of biological attributes and hypothesized environmental covariates is a common method for detecting such impacts. These correlative approaches are particularly common in studies of exploited fish species because rich biological time-series data are often available. However, the utility of species-environment relationships for identifying or predicting biological responses to climate change has been questioned because strong correlations often deteriorate as new data are collected. Specifically stating and critically evaluating the mechanistic relationship(s) linking an environmental driver to a biological response may help to address this problem. Using nearly 60 years of data on sockeye salmon from the Kvichak River, Alaska we tested a mechanistic hypothesis linking water temperatures experienced during freshwater rearing to population productivity by modeling a series of intermediate, deterministic relationships and evaluating temporal trends in biological and environmental time-series. We found that warming waters during freshwater rearing have profoundly altered patterns of growth and life history in this population complex yet there has been no significant correlation between water temperature and metrics of productivity commonly used in fisheries management. These findings demonstrate that pairing correlative approaches with careful consideration of the mechanistic links between populations and their environments can help to both avoid spurious correlations and identify biologically important, but not statistically significant relationships, and ultimately producing more robust conclusions about the biological impacts of climate change.
Cites: Nature. 2003 Jan 2;421(6918):37-4212511946
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 May 27;100(11):6564-812743372
The loss of biodiversity is threatening ecosystem productivity and services worldwide, spurring efforts to quantify its effects on the functioning of natural ecosystems. Previous research has focused on the positive role of biodiversity on resource acquisition (i.e., niche complementarity), but a lack of study on resource utilization efficiency, a link between resource and productivity, has rendered it difficult to quantify the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship. Here we demonstrate that biodiversity loss reduces plant productivity, other things held constant, through theory, empirical evidence, and simulations under gradually relaxed assumptions. We developed a theoretical model named niche-efficiency to integrate niche complementarity and a heretofore-ignored mechanism of diminishing marginal productivity in quantifying the effects of biodiversity loss on plant productivity. Based on niche-efficiency, we created a relative productivity metric and a productivity impact index (PII) to assist in biological conservation and resource management. Relative productivity provides a standardized measure of the influence of biodiversity on individual productivity, and PII is a functionally based taxonomic index to assess individual species' inherent value in maintaining current ecosystem productivity. Empirical evidence from the Alaska boreal forest suggests that every 1% reduction in overall plant diversity could render an average of 0.23% decline in individual tree productivity. Out of the 283 plant species of the region, we found that large woody plants generally have greater PII values than other species. This theoretical model would facilitate the integration of biological conservation in the international campaign against several pressing global issues involving energy use, climate change, and poverty.
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jul 16;110(29):11911-623818582
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Cites: Science. 2004 Nov 12;306(5699):1146-915539593
The Arctic is melting at an unprecedented rate and key drivers are changes in snow and ice albedo. Here we show that red snow, a common algal habitat blooming after the onset of melting, plays a crucial role in decreasing albedo. Our data reveal that red pigmented snow algae are cosmopolitan as well as independent of location-specific geochemical and mineralogical factors. The patterns for snow algal diversity, pigmentation and, consequently albedo, are ubiquitous across the Arctic and the reduction in albedo accelerates snow melt and increases the time and area of exposed bare ice. We estimated that the overall decrease in snow albedo by red pigmented snow algal blooms over the course of one melt season can be 13%. This will invariably result in higher melt rates. We argue that such a 'bio-albedo' effect has to be considered in climate models.
Global warming is predicted to adversely affect the reproduction of birds, especially in northern latitudes. A recent study in Finland inferred that declining populations of black grouse, Tetrao tetrix, could be attributed to advancement of the time of mating and chicks hatching too early-supporting the mismatch hypothesis. Here, we examine the breeding success of sympatric capercaillie, T. urogallus, and black grouse over a 38-year period in southeast Norway. Breeding season temperatures increased, being most pronounced in April. Although the onset of spring advanced nearly three weeks, the peak of mating advanced only 4-5 days. In contrast to the result of the Finnish study, breeding success increased markedly in both species (capercaillie: 62%, black grouse: 38%). Both brood frequency and brood size increased during the study period, but significantly so only for brood frequency in capercaillie. Whereas the frequency of capercaillie broods was positively affected by rising temperatures, especially during the pre-hatching period, this was not the case in black grouse. Brood size, on the other hand, increased with increasing post-hatching temperatures in both species. Contrary to the prediction that global warming will adversely affect reproduction in boreal forest grouse, our study shows that breeding success was enhanced in warmer springs.
As climatic conditions shift in coming decades, persistence of many populations will depend on their ability to colonize habitat newly suitable for their climatic requirements. Opportunities for such range shifts may be limited unless areas that facilitate dispersal under climate change are identified and protected from land uses that impede movement. While many climate adaptation strategies focus on identifying refugia, this study is the first to characterize areas which merit protection for their role in promoting climate connectivity at a continental extent. We identified climate connectivity areas across North America by delineating paths between current climate types and their future analogs that avoided nonanalogous climates, and used centrality metrics to rank the contribution of each location to facilitating dispersal across the landscape. The distribution of connectivity areas was influenced by climatic and topographic factors at multiple spatial scales. Results were robust to uncertainty in the magnitude of future climate change arising from differing emissions scenarios and general circulation models, but sensitive to analysis extent and assumptions concerning dispersal behavior and maximum dispersal distance. Paths were funneled along north-south trending passes and valley systems and away from areas of novel and disappearing climates. Climate connectivity areas, where many potential dispersal paths overlapped, were distinct from refugia and thus poorly captured by many existing conservation strategies. Existing protected areas with high connectivity values were found in southern Mexico, the southwestern US, and western and arctic Canada and Alaska. Ecoregions within the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Great Plains, eastern temperate forests, high Arctic, and western Canadian Cordillera hold important climate connectivity areas which merit increased conservation focus due to anthropogenic pressures or current low levels of protection. Our coarse-filter climate-type-based results complement and contextualize species-specific analyses and add a missing dimension to climate adaptation planning by identifying landscape features which promote connectivity among refugia.
A rich structural diversity in forests promotes biodiversity. Forests are dynamic and therefore it is crucial to consider future structural potential when selecting reserves, to make robust conservation decisions. We analyzed forests in boreal Sweden based on 17,599 National Forest Inventory (NFI) plots with the main aim to understand how effectiveness of reserves depends on the time dimension in the selection process, specifically by considering future structural diversity. In the study both the economic value and future values of 15 structural variables were simulated during a 100 year period. To get a net present structural value (NPSV), a single value covering both current and future values, we used four discounting alternatives: (1) only considering present values, (2) giving equal importance to values in each of the 100 years within the planning horizon, (3) applying an annual discount rate considering the risk that values could be lost, and (4) only considering the values in year 100. The four alternatives were evaluated in a reserve selection model under budget-constrained and area-constrained selections. When selecting young forests higher structural richness could be reached at a quarter of the cost over almost twice the area in a budget-constrained selection compared to an area-constrained selection. Our results point to the importance of considering future structural diversity in the selection of forest reserves and not as is done currently to base the selection on existing values. Targeting future values increases structural diversity and implies a relatively lower cost. Further, our results show that a re-orientation from old to young forests would imply savings while offering a more extensive reserve network with high structural qualities in the future. However, caution must be raised against a drastic reorientation of the current old-forest strategy since remnants of ancient forests will need to be prioritized due to their role for disturbance-sensitive species.
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Cites: PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e5331523405068
Cites: Science. 2010 May 28;328(5982):1164-820430971
Changes in climate are influencing the distribution and abundance of the world's biota, with significant consequences for biological diversity and ecosystem processes. Recent work has raised concern that populations of moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) may be particularly susceptible to population declines under environmental change. Moreover, effects of climate change may be especially pronounced in high latitude ecosystems. Here, we examine population dynamics in an assemblage of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland to assess current trajectories of population change. Moth counts were made continuously over a period of 32?years using light traps. From 456 species recorded, 80 were sufficiently abundant for detailed analyses of their population dynamics. Climate records indicated rapid increases in temperature and winter precipitation at our study site during the sampling period. However, 90% of moth populations were stable (57%) or increasing (33%) over the same period of study. Nonetheless, current population trends do not appear to reflect positive responses to climate change. Rather, time-series models illustrated that the per capita rates of change of moth species were more frequently associated negatively than positively with climate change variables, even as their populations were increasing. For example, the per capita rates of change of 35% of microlepidoptera were associated negatively with climate change variables. Moth life-history traits were not generally strong predictors of current population change or associations with climate change variables. However, 60% of moth species that fed as larvae on resources other than living vascular plants (e.g. litter, lichen, mosses) were associated negatively with climate change variables in time-series models, suggesting that such species may be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Overall, populations of subarctic forest moths in Finland are performing better than expected, and their populations appear buffered at present from potential deleterious effects of climate change by other ecological forces.
Range shifts have been documented in many organisms, and climate change has been implicated as a contributing driver of latitudinal and altitudinal range modifications. However, little is known about what species trait(s) allow for faster environmental tracking and improved capacity for distribution expansions. We used data for 416 species of moths, and show that range limits in Sweden have shifted to the north by on average 52.4?km per decade between 1973 and 2014. When also including non-expanding species, average expansion rate was 23.2?km per decade. The rate of boundary shifts increased with increasing levels of inter-individual variation in colour patterns and decreased with increasing latitude. The association with colour patterns indicate that variation in this functionally important trait enables species to cope with novel and changing conditions. Northern range limits also increased with average abundance and decreased with increasing year-to-year abundance fluctuations, implicating production of dispersers as a driver of range dynamics. Studies of terrestrial animals show that rates of poleward shifts differ between taxonomic groups, increase over time, and depend on study duration and latitude. Knowledge of how distribution shifts change with time, location, and species characteristics may improve projections of responses to climate change and aid the protection of biodiversity.
Cites: Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 23;6:22122 PMID 26902799
Cites: Science. 2004 Mar 19;303(5665):1879-81 PMID 15031508
Cites: Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Jun 7;282(1808):20142922 PMID 25972462
Cites: Nature. 2009 Dec 24;462(7276):1052-5 PMID 20033047
Cites: Nature. 2003 Jan 2;421(6918):37-42 PMID 12511946
Forests play a key role in the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems. One of the main uncertainties in global change predictions lies in how the spatiotemporal dynamics of forest productivity will be affected by climate warming. Here we show an increasing influence of climate on the spatial variability of tree growth during the last 120 y, ultimately leading to unprecedented temporal coherence in ring-width records over wide geographical scales (spatial synchrony). Synchrony in growth patterns across cold-constrained (central Siberia) and drought-constrained (Spain) Eurasian conifer forests have peaked in the early 21st century at subcontinental scales (~ 1,000 km). Such enhanced synchrony is similar to that observed in trees co-occurring within a stand. In boreal forests, the combined effects of recent warming and increasing intensity of climate extremes are enhancing synchrony through an earlier start of wood formation and a stronger impact of year-to-year fluctuations of growing-season temperatures on growth. In Mediterranean forests, the impact of warming on synchrony is related mainly to an advanced onset of growth and the strengthening of drought-induced growth limitations. Spatial patterns of enhanced synchrony represent early warning signals of climate change impacts on forest ecosystems at subcontinental scales.
Department of Conservation Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Vienna, Austria ; Institute for Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Troms, Norway ; Institute of Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, University of Vienna, Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
The Arctic is one of the ecosystems most affected by climate change; in particular, winter temperatures and precipitation are predicted to increase with consequent changes to snow cover depth and duration. Whether the snow-free period will be shortened or prolonged depends on the extent and temporal patterns of the temperature and precipitation rise; resulting changes will likely affect plant growth with cascading effects throughout the ecosystem. We experimentally manipulated snow regimes using snow fences and shoveling and assessed aboveground size of eight common high arctic plant species weekly throughout the summer. We demonstrated that plant growth responded to snow regime, and that air temperature sum during the snow free period was the best predictor for plant size. The majority of our studied species showed periodic growth; increases in plant size stopped after certain cumulative temperatures were obtained. Plants in early snow-free treatments without additional spring warming were smaller than controls. Response to deeper snow with later melt-out varied between species and categorizing responses by growth forms or habitat associations did not reveal generic trends. We therefore stress the importance of examining responses at the species level, since generalized predictions of aboveground growth responses to changing snow regimes cannot be made.
Cites: Ecol Appl. 2009 Jun;19(4):1022-4319544741
Cites: Oecologia. 2013 Mar;171(3):743-6023386042
Cites: Science. 2013 Jan 18;339(6117):313-523329044