Climate change, species distribution models, and physiological performance metrics: predicting when biogeographic models are likely to fail
Article first published online: 22 AUG 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 10, pages 3334–3346, September 2013
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2013; 3(10): 3334–3346
- Issue published online: 19 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 22 AUG 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 6 JUN 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 14 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Received: 27 MAR 2013
- NASA. Grant Numbers: NNX07AF20G, NNX11AP77G
- National Science Foundation (NSF). Grant Numbers: OCE 1039513, OCE-1129401
- climate change;
- niche models;
- physiological mechanism;
- physiological performance;
Modeling the biogeographic consequences of climate change requires confidence in model predictions under novel conditions. However, models often fail when extended to new locales, and such instances have been used as evidence of a change in physiological tolerance, that is, a fundamental niche shift. We explore an alternative explanation and propose a method for predicting the likelihood of failure based on physiological performance curves and environmental variance in the original and new environments. We define the transient event margin (TEM) as the gap between energetic performance failure, defined as CTmax, and the upper lethal limit, defined as LTmax. If TEM is large relative to environmental fluctuations, models will likely fail in new locales. If TEM is small relative to environmental fluctuations, models are likely to be robust for new locales, even when mechanism is unknown. Using temperature, we predict when biogeographic models are likely to fail and illustrate this with a case study. We suggest that failure is predictable from an understanding of how climate drives nonlethal physiological responses, but for many species such data have not been collected. Successful biogeographic forecasting thus depends on understanding when the mechanisms limiting distribution of a species will differ among geographic regions, or at different times, resulting in realized niche shifts. TEM allows prediction of the likelihood of such model failure.