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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>