Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First test of predictions of climate change impacts on biodiversity

14.06.2005


Reliance on just one model no better than flipping a coin!



A new study published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography represents the first real test of the performance of models used to forecast how species will change their geographic ranges in response to the Earth’s changing climate

Despite the weight of scientific evidence that the Earth is warming and that this is already affecting wildlife, many people - and a few scientists - still refuse to believe it is actually happening. These climate change skeptics usually justify their position by insisting that scientists’ forecasts are just too inaccurate. Of course, we can never really know what the future will bring, but in a fascinating new study published this week in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography a group of Oxford Scientists have tested the ability of environmental science to predict the future… by going back to the past.


Dr Miguel Araújo and his colleagues from Oxford University’s Biodiversity Research Group imagined they were back in the 70’s and were trying to predict the geographic ranges of British birds in 1991 using 16 commonly used climate-envelope models and the real data on how the climate had changed during this period.

Climate envelope model forecasts typically involve a three-step process: First, for each species, mathematical models are developed to link the species to its present climate envelope (actual environmental conditions where the species is found). Second, a climate change scenario for some point in the future, typically 2020 or 2050, is applied to generate a new potential range distribution for the species. Third, this new projected distribution is compared to the present distribution, allowing the scientists to forecast whether the species distribution, will grow, or shrink, or even become extinct.

Unlike previous studies that have provided untestable forecasts of range changes in response to future climate change, the Oxford study was able to directly compare the predicted range changes with what actually occurred. Surprisingly, the ability of any single model to accurately predict the 1991 distribution was very poor. The results of models applied to particular species were spectacularly variable. For 90% of species the models could not agree whether their geographic range would expand or contract. In the small minority of cases (10%) where all the models agreed about the direction of change, they only had a 50% chance of getting that direction right. “It would be just as accurate and a lot less hassle just to toss a coin” says one of the co-authors, Dr Richard Ladle.

So, will we ever be able to predict accurately how climate change will affect the distributions of animals and plants? The Oxford Group may have found a solution. “The accuracy of the predictions can be drastically increased if a set of alternative models are compared and used together to create a ‘consensus’ projection” Says Dr Araújo. Using the same data set for British birds, the consensus prediction was shown to be vastly superior to any single model and could predict bird range expansion or contraction with an accuracy of over 75%.

To avoid further accusations of crystal ball gazing, environmentalists and scientists now need to find further ways of improving the accuracy of models to provide more meaningful inputs into environmental policy making. “If we don’t improve our forecasting soon then not only will the climate skeptics find it easy to criticize climate change research, but we will be left making decisions about the future of the planet based on guesswork” says Dr Ladle.

Emily Davis | alfa
Further information:
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>