Novel climates, no-analog communities, and ecological surprises

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Williams, John W. and Jackson, Stephen T.

No-analog communities (communities that are compositionally unlike any found today) occurred frequently in the past and will develop in the greenhouse world of the future. The well documented no-analog plant communities of late-glacial North America are closely linked to “novel” climates also lacking modern analogs, characterized by high seasonality of temperature. In climate simulations for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change A2 and B1 emission scenarios, novel climates arise by 2100 AD, primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. These future novel climates are warmer than any present climates globally, with spatially variable shifts in precipitation, and increase the risk of species reshuffling into future no-analog communities and other ecological surprises. Most ecological models are at least partially parameterized from modern observations and so may fail to accurately predict ecological responses to these novel climates. There is an urgent need to test the robustness of ecological models to climate conditions outside modern experience.


Williams, J. W., and S. T. Jackson. 2007. Novel climates, no-analog communities, and ecological surprises. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5:475–482.