Models that couple habitat suitability with demographic processes offer a potentially improved approach for estimating spatial distributional shifts and extinction risk under climate change. Applying such an approach to five species of Australian plants with contrasting demographic traits, we show that: (i) predicted climate-driven changes in range area are sensitive to the underlying habitat model, regardless of whether demographic traits and their interaction with habitat patch configuration are modeled explicitly; and (ii) caution should be exercised when using predicted changes in total habitat suitability or geographic extent to infer extinction risk, because the relationship between these metrics is often weak. Measures of extinction risk, which quantify threats to population persistence, are particularly sensitive to life-history traits, such as recruitment response to fire, which explained approximately 60% of the deviance in expected minimum abundance. Dispersal dynamics and habitat patch structure have the strongest influence on the amount of movement of the trailing and leading edge of the range margin, explaining roughly 40% of modeled structural deviance. These results underscore the need to consider direct measures of extinction risk (population declines and other measures of stochastic viability), as well as measures of change in habitat area, when assessing climate change impacts on biodiversity. Furthermore, direct estimation of extinction risk incorporates important demographic and ecosystem processes, which potentially influence species’ vulnerability to extinction due to climate change.
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