Stepping inside the niche: Microclimate data are critical for accurate assessment of species' vulnerability to climate change

Collin Storlie, Andres Merino-Viteri, Ben Phillips, Jeremy VanDerWal, Justin Welbergen, Stephen Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

To assess a species' vulnerability to climate change, we commonly use mapped environmental data that are coarsely resolved in time and space. Coarsely resolved temperature data are typically inaccurate at predicting temperatures in microhabitats used by an organism and may also exhibit spatial bias in topographically complex areas. One consequence of these inaccuracies is that coarsely resolved layers may predict thermal regimes at a site that exceed species' known thermal limits. In this study, we use statistical downscaling to account for environmental factors and develop high-resolution estimates of daily maximum temperatures for a 36 000 km2 study area over a 38-year period. We then demonstrate that this statistical downscaling provides temperature estimates that consistently place focal species within their fundamental thermal niche, whereas coarsely resolved layers do not. Our results highlight the need for incorporation of fine-scale weather data into species' vulnerability analyses and demonstrate that a statistical downscaling approach can yield biologically relevant estimates of thermal regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20140576
JournalBiology Letters
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Exposure
  • Sensitivity
  • Spatial weather layers
  • Vulnerability

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