Species’ responses to climate change

Yesterday in Graduate Seminar: Environmental Science, we discussed the paper by Sinclair et al. (2010) that critiqued the use of species distribution models for helping inform management of species under climate change. A few recent papers related to this topic are worth considering. One is discussed in The Conversation (Moritz and Agudo 2013), part of a special section of Science, and another is in press in PNAS (Blois et al. in press). In particular, the latter paper suggests that species distribution models can indeed help to predict response of species to climate change. These models are not perfect (that’s the thing about models – they are not meant to be perfect), but they seem helpful.

As an aside, a commentator in The Conversation suggested that the last paragraph of The Conversation piece was not appropriate for scientific commentary. What do you think? Is it appropriate for scientists to make such statements? This question is relevant to the second discussion we had about the role of science in public debate.


Blois, J. L., J. W. Williams, M. C. Fitzpatrick, S. T. Jackson, and S. Ferrier (in press). Space can substitute for time in predicting climate-change effects on biodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Moritz, C., and R. Agudo, (2013) The future of species under climate change: resilience or decline? Science 341 (6145): 504-508.

Sinclair, S. J., M. D. White, and G. R. Newell. (2010). How useful are species distribution models for managing biodiversity under future climates? Ecology and Society 15 (1): 8.



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