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Predicting future European breeding distributions of British seabird species under climate change and unlimited/no dispersal scenarios

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Understanding which traits make species vulnerable to climatic change and predicting future distributions permits conservation efforts to be focused on the most vulnerable species and the most appropriate sites. Here, we combine climate envelope models with predicted bioclimatic data from two emission scenarios leading up to 2100, to predict European breeding distributions of 23 seabird species that currently breed in the British Isles. Assuming unlimited dispersal, some species would be “winners” (increase the size of their range), but over 65% would lose range, some by up to 80%. These “losers” have a high vulnerability to low prey availability, and a northerly distribution meaning they would lack space to move into. Under the worst-case scenario of no dispersal, species are predicted to lose between 25% and 100% of their range, so dispersal ability is a key constraint on future range sizes. More globally, the results indicate, based on foraging ecology, which seabird species are likely to be most affected by climatic change. Neither of the emissions scenarios used in this study is extreme, yet they generate very different predictions for some species, illustrating that even small decreases in emissions could yield large benefits for conservation.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-359
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2015

    Research areas

  • Climate envelope modelling, Climate response surface, Conservation, Ecological niche modelling, Extinction risk, Foraging ecology, Global warming, Marine spatial planning, Sea surface temperature, Species distribution model

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