Sensitivity analysis of the tree distribution model Phenofit to climatic input characteristics: implications for climate impact assessment


Xavier Morin, tel. +33 4 67 61 32 37, fax +33 4 67 41 21 38, e-mail:


Species distributions are already affected by climate change. Forecasting their long-term evolution requires models with thoroughly assessed validation. Our aim here is to demonstrate that the sensitivity of such models to climate input characteristics may complicate their validation and introduce uncertainties in their predictions. In this study, we conducted a sensitivity analysis of a process-based tree distribution model Phenofit to climate input characteristics. This analysis was conducted for two North American trees which differ greatly in their distribution and eight different types of climate input for the historic period which differ in their spatial (local or gridded data) and temporal (daily vs. monthly) resolution as well as their type (locally recorded, extrapolated or simulated by General Circulation Models). We show that the climate data resolution (spatial and temporal) and their type, highly affect the model predictions. The sensitivity analysis also revealed, the importance, for global climate change impact assessment, of (i) the daily variability of temperatures in modeling the biological processes shaping species distribution, (ii) climate data at high latitudes and elevations and (iii) climate data with high spatial resolution.