An ecosystem model-based estimate of changes in water availability differs from water proxies that are commonly used in species distribution models

Authors

  • Thomas Hickler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, Geobiosphere Science Centre, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden
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  • Stefan Fronzek,

    1. Finnish Environment Institute, Research Programme for Global Change, Box 140, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland
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  • Miguel B. Araújo,

    1. Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, C/José Gutierrez Abascal, 2, Madrid, ES-28006, Spain
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  • Oliver Schweiger,

    1. UFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Strasse 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany
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  • Wilfried Thuiller,

    1. Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, UMR CNRS 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
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  • Martin T. Sykes

    1. Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, Geobiosphere Science Centre, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden
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*Correspondence: Thomas Hickler, Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, Geobiosphere Science Centre, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden.
E-mail: thomas.hickler@nateko.lu.se

ABSTRACT

Aim  To assess whether the water availability measures commonly used in species distribution models might be misleading because they do not account for the hydrological effects of changes in vegetation structure and functioning.

Location  Europe.

Methods  We compared different methods for estimating water availability in species distribution models with the soil water content predicted by a process-based ecosystem model. The latter also accounted for the hydrological effects of dynamic changes in vegetation structure and functioning, including potential physiological effects of increasing CO2.

Results  All proxies showed similar patterns of water availability across Europe for current climate, but when projected into the future, the changes in the simpler water availability measures showed no correlation with those projected by the more complex ecosystem model, even if CO2 effects were switched off.

Main conclusions  Results from species distribution modelling studies concerning future changes in species ranges and biodiversity should be interpreted with caution, and more process-based representations of the water balance of terrestrial ecosystems should be considered within these models.

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