Dispersal based climate change sensitivity scores for European species

21-07-2016 | Publication

Assessments of climate change impacts on species are needed for anticipating potential biodiversity losses. Climate change impacts on species are often simulated with climate envelope models, but most climate envelope models do not account for dispersal limitations. This study attempts to include dispersal limitation into the calculation of climate change sensitivity scores for a range of vertebrate and plant species.

We calculate climate change sensitivity scores -expressed as an index- by using the 'spatial turnover' of a species under climate change, defined as the projected difference between current and future area occupied by a species within a region, and include a dispersal factor to account for dispersal limitations. We compared climate sensitivity scores across species groups and European bio-geographical regions in order to determine whether explicitly accounting for dispersal limitations causes significant differences in sensitivity for climate change.

Our results show that the climate sensitivity scores calculated with de differ slightly from d0 (no dispersal), but differ significantly from d1 (full dispersal) for the less mobile species groups (amphibian, reptiles, plants). This indicates that assuming full dispersal significantly overestimates the future distribution in Europe under climate change for these species, whereas assuming no dispersal may slightly underestimates this. However, this conclusion could not be drawn for the more mobile birds and mammas: climate sensitivity scores calculated with de are approximately intermediate of those calculated with d0 (no dispersal) and d1 (full dispersal). This indicates that assuming either no or full dispersal results in poor estimates of the future distribution of these species in Europe under climate change, and that dispersal capacity should therefore always be considered when assessing climate change impacts on these species. Disaggregating climate sensitivity scores per European bio-geographical regions reveals that regional climate sensitivity scores are similar to the European level.