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Red noise increases extinction risk during rapid climate change


Correspondence: Karen Mustin, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.




As the global climate is changing rapidly, there is a need to make conservation decisions to facilitate species' persistence under climate change. Models employed to make predictions regarding the impacts of climate change on species' distributions, and ultimately persistence, typically assume that interannual variability in environmental conditions is independent between years. However, the colour of environmental noise has been shown to affect extinction risk in populations occupying spatially static environments, and should therefore affect persistence during climate change. This study aims to investigate the importance of noise colour for extinction risk during climate-induced range shifts.


We use a spatially explicit coupled map lattice with a latitudinal gradient in climatic suitability, together with time series of environmental noise, to simulate periods of directional climate change and investigate the effects of noise colour on extinction risk and range size.


Extinction risk increases with reddening of the environmental noise, and this effect is particularly pronounced over short time frames when climate change is rapid.

Main conclusions

Given that management decisions are typically made over such short time frames, and the rapid rates of climate change currently being experienced, we highlight the importance of incorporating realistic time series of environmental noise into models used for conservation planning under climate change.