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How will biotic interactions influence climate change–induced range shifts?


Address for correspondence: Janneke HilleRisLambers, University of Washington, Department of Biology, Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195-1800.


Biotic interactions present a challenge in determining whether species distributions will track climate change. Interactions with competitors, consumers, mutualists, and facilitators can strongly influence local species distributions, but few studies assess how and whether these interactions will impede or accelerate climate change–induced range shifts. In this paper, we explore how ecologists might move forward on this question. We first outline the conditions under which biotic interactions can result in range shifts that proceed faster or slower than climate velocity and result in ecological surprises. Next, we use our own work to demonstrate that experimental studies documenting the strength of biotic interactions across large environmental gradients are a critical first step for understanding whether they will influence climate change–induced range shifts. Further progress could be made by integrating results from these studies into modeling frameworks to predict how or generalize when biotic interactions mediate how changing climates influence range shifts. Finally, we argue that many more case studies like those described here are needed to explore the importance of biotic interactions during climate change–induced range shifts.