The relative impacts of climate and land-use change on conterminous United States bird species from 2001 to 2075

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Sohl, Terry L.
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Species distribution models often use climate data to assess contemporary and/or future ranges for animal or plant species. Land use and land cover (LULC) data are important predictor variables for determining species range, yet are rarely used when modeling future distributions. In this study, maximum entropy modeling was used to construct species distribution maps for 50 North American bird species to determine relative contributions of climate and LULC for contemporary (2001) and future (2075) time periods. Species presence data were used as a dependent variable, while climate, LULC, and topographic data were used as predictor variables. Results varied by species, but in general, measures of model fit for 2001 indicated significantly poorer fit when either climate or LULC data were excluded from model simulations. Climate covariates provided a higher contribution to 2001 model results than did LULC variables, although both categories of variables strongly contributed. The area deemed to be “suitable” for 2001 species presence was strongly affected by the choice of model covariates, with significantly larger ranges predicted when LULC was excluded as a covariate. Changes in species ranges for 2075 indicate much larger overall range changes due to projected climate change than due to projected LULC change. However, the choice of study area impacted results for both current and projected model applications, with truncation of actual species ranges resulting in lower model fit scores and increased difficulty in interpreting covariate impacts on species range. Results indicate species-specific response to climate and LULC variables; however, both climate and LULC variables clearly are important for modeling both contemporary and potential future species ranges.


Sohl, Terry L. 2014. “The Relative Impacts of Climate and Land-Use Change on Conterminous United States Bird Species from 2001 to 2075.” PLoS ONE 9 (11): e112251. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112251.