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Climate models forecast major changes for the boreal region, where increased temperatures will result in hotter and drier conditions for forest species.  Large biodiversity datasets and advanced modeling methods have greatly improved scientists’ abilities to project changes in species distribution and abundance. But how useful are these projections, given uncertainties about the future? A new study led by Wild49 members Diana Stralberg and Erin Bayne, published in Ecological Applications (http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/13-2289.1) provides climate-based projections of distribution and abundance for 80 boreal-breeding songbird species over the next 100 years, and demonstrates their utility for wildlife managers, accounting for climate-change uncertainties. A collaboration among researchers from the University of Alberta, Environment Canada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yukon College, and Université Laval, the study found that, for the North American boreal forest region, the climate-change “signal” in projected songbird responses to climate change exceeds the “noise” stemming from uncertainty associated with future climate and bird models. Researchers used a dataset of over 300,000 breeding bird surveys assembled by the Boreal Avian Modelling Project, combined with downscaled climate projections for North America, to develop these models. They found that, as uncertainty about the details of climate change increases over the coming century, so does the magnitude of projected change.  As a result, informative and reliable models were built for a large majority of species.  Projections from these models, available through Data Basin, can help inform conservation planning priorities, as well as assessments of species’ vulnerability to climate change, and species-specific conservation plans.

StralbergEtAlEcolApplCover (2)by Diana Stralberg

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