Why is the choice of future climate scenarios for species distribution modelling important?

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Species distribution models (SDMs) are common tools for assessing the potential impact of climate change on species ranges. Uncertainty in SDM output occurs due to differences among alternate models, species characteristics and scenarios of future climate. While considerable effort is being devoted to identifying and quantifying the first two sources of variation, a greater understanding of climate scenarios and how they affect SDM output is also needed. Climate models are complex tools: variability occurs among alternate simulations, and no single 'best' model exists. The selection of climate scenarios for impacts assessments should not be undertaken arbitrarily - strengths and weakness of different climate models should be considered. In this paper, we provide bioclimatic modellers with an overview of emissions scenarios and climate models, discuss uncertainty surrounding projections of future climate and suggest steps that can be taken to reduce and communicate climate scenario-related uncertainty in assessments of future species responses to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1146
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


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