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Journal Article

Woody plants and the prediction of climate-change impacts on bird diversity


Heyder,  Ursula
IMPRS on Earth System Modelling, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Kissling, W. D., Field, R., Korntheuer, H., Heyder, U., & Boehning-Gaese, K. (2010). Woody plants and the prediction of climate-change impacts on bird diversity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 365(1549), 2035-2045. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0008.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0015-3DC7-8
Current methods of assessing climate-induced shifts of species distributions rarely account for species interactions and usually ignore potential differences in response times of interacting taxa to climate change. Here, we used species-richness data from 1005 breeding bird and 1417 woody plant species in Kenya and employed model-averaged coefficients from regression models and median climatic forecasts assembled across 15 climate-change scenarios to predict bird species richness under climate change. Forecasts assuming an instantaneous response of woody plants and birds to climate change suggested increases in future bird species richness across most of Kenya whereas forecasts assuming strongly lagged woody plant responses to climate change indicated a reversed trend, i.e. reduced bird species richness. Uncertainties in predictions of future bird species richness were geographically structured, mainly owing to uncertainties in projected precipitation changes. We conclude that assessments of future species responses to climate change are very sensitive to current uncertainties in regional climate-change projections, and to the inclusion or not of time-lagged interacting taxa. We expect even stronger effects for more specialized plant-animal associations. Given the slow response time of woody plant distributions to climate change, current estimates of future biodiversity of many animal taxa may be both biased and too optimistic.