Habitat shifts of endangered species under altered climate conditions: importance of biotic interactions

Authors

  • KRISTINE L. PRESTON,

    1. Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
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  • JOHN T. ROTENBERRY,

    1. Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
    2. Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
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  • RICHARD A. REDAK,

    1. Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
    2. Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
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  • MICHAEL F. ALLEN

    1. Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
    2. Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA,
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Kristine L. Preston, tel. +1 951 827 2621, fax +1 951 827 2620, e-mail: Kristine.Preston@ucr.edu

Abstract

Predicting changes in potential habitat for endangered species as a result of global warming requires considering more than future climate conditions; it is also necessary to evaluate biotic associations. Most distribution models predicting species responses to climate change include climate variables and occasionally topographic and edaphic parameters, rarely are biotic interactions included. Here, we incorporate biotic interactions into niche models to predict suitable habitat for species under altered climates. We constructed and evaluated niche models for an endangered butterfly and a threatened bird species, both are habitat specialists restricted to semiarid shrublands of southern California. To incorporate their dependency on shrubs, we first developed climate-based niche models for shrubland vegetation and individual shrub species. We also developed models for the butterfly's larval host plants. Outputs from these models were included in the environmental variable dataset used to create butterfly and bird niche models. For both animal species, abiotic–biotic models outperformed the climate-only model, with climate-only models over-predicting suitable habitat under current climate conditions. We used the climate-only and abiotic–biotic models to calculate amounts of suitable habitat under altered climates and to evaluate species' sensitivities to climate change. We varied temperature (+0.6, +1.7, and +2.8 °C) and precipitation (50%, 90%, 100%, 110%, and 150%) relative to current climate averages and within ranges predicted by global climate change models. Suitable habitat for each species was reduced at all levels of temperature increase. Both species were sensitive to precipitation changes, particularly increases. Under altered climates, including biotic variables reduced habitat by 68–100% relative to the climate-only model. To design reserve systems conserving sensitive species under global warming, it is important to consider biotic interactions, particularly for habitat specialists and species with strong dependencies on other species.

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