New maps show expected global species shifts due to climate change

Black crappie fish

International NCEAS Working Group tracks how fast and in which direction local climates — and species — have shifted


A new study provides an innovative global map of where species are likely to succeed or fail in keeping up with a changing climate. The findings appear in the science journal Nature.

A NCEAS Working Group of 18 international researchers analyzed 50 years of sea surface and land temperature data (1960-2009). They also projected temperature changes under two future scenarios, one that assumes greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized by 2100 and a second that assumes these emissions continue to increase. The resulting maps display where new temperature conditions are being generated and where existing environments may disappear.

This rare global study, which examines scenarios both on land and in the ocean, demonstrates that climate migration is far more complex than a simple shift toward the poles. “As species move to track their ideal temperature conditions, they will sometimes run into what we call a ‘climate sink,’ where the preferred climate simply disappears leaving species nowhere to go because they are up against a coastline or other barrier,” explained Carrie Kappel, an NCEAS associate and one of the paper’s authors. “There are a number of those sinks around the world where movement is blocked by a coastline, like in the northern Adriatic Sea or the northern Gulf of Mexico, and there’s no way out because it’s warmer everywhere behind.”

Geographical Limits To Climate-Related Shifts In Species Distributions

Michael T. Burrows, David S. Schoeman, Anthony J. Richardson, Jorge García Molinos, Ary Hoffmann, Lauren B. Buckley, Pippa Moore, Chris Brown, John F. Bruno, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Ove Hoegh Guldberg, Carrie V. Kappel, Wolfgang Kiessling, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, William J. Sydeman, Simon Ferrier, Kristen J. Williams, Elvira S. Poloczanska
Nature, February 2014

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Posted on February 7, 2014