Get real: putting models of climate change and species interactions in practice

Authors


Address for correspondence: Lauren B. Buckley, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. buckley@bio.unc.edu

Abstract

Forecasts of the ecological impacts of climate change are generally focused on direct impacts to individual species. Theory and case studies suggest that indirect effects associated with species interactions may alter these direct responses. How can we tractably predict in which cases indirect effects are likely to be important and appropriately model the interaction of abiotic and biotic drivers? One viable strategy is to characterize partitioning between species along thermal, temporal, and spatial niche axes. The partitioning can be informed by assessing functional traits. Mechanistic models can then be applied to predict how climate change will alter niche partitioning. I illustrate this approach by asking whether competition has altered the responses of Caribbean Anolis lizards to recent warming and find that forested habitat has become more suitable for a warm-adapted, open species, and less suitable for a cool-adapted forest inhabitant. Competition may result in competitive displacement of the cool-adapted species as the warm-adapted species moves into the forest. Species interactions may accentuate abundance and distribution shifts predicted in response to climate change along the elevation gradient.

Ancillary