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Predicting the biodiversity response to climate change: challenges and advances
- ELLIS, CHRISTOPHER J.
- Systematics and biodiversity 2011 v.9 no.4 pp. 307-317
- biodiversity, biologists, botanical gardens, butterflies, climate, climate change, expert opinion, models, monitoring, prediction, trees
- This Perspective examines progress, challenges and emerging directions in bioclimatic modelling. The field of bioclimatic modelling provides a toolkit which is widely used to examine the biodiversity response to climate, including future scenarios of climate change. Bioclimatic modelling has been the subject of intense research in statistical ecology; here I trace its development from a highly researched statistical foundation towards a framework that increasingly incorporates the ecological detail of a species’ climatic sensitivity. However, as models become more complex (with greater ecological realism) a choice emerges between two approaches: (i) greater model complexity and biological realism – especially where applied to specific conservation problems; and (ii) acceptance of simple bioclimatic tools as a useful albeit limited component, within a mixed evidence-base to assess climate change threat and conservation action. I conclude that whole-organism biologists working at museums and botanic gardens should claim an increasing stake in the bioclimatic framework, especially as the field develops towards an improved biology, towards the integration of new forms of evidence (evolutionary biology, long-term monitoring, expert knowledge, etc.), and in order to force the expansion from model systems (e.g. birds, butterflies, trees), to biodiversity more generally.