As the planet warms, animal and plant species around the world will face new and unpredictable living conditions, which may alter ecosystems in unprecedented ways.
A new study conducted by researchers from Canada’s McGill University, in collaboration with an international team from several countries, investigated the importance of temperature in determining where animal species are currently located to understand how a warming climate will affect where they may live in the future.
460 species of cold-blooded animals
To find out, the researchers tested the role of temperature as a factor that can limit a species’ potential habitat range, comparing the temperatures and areas where 460 species of cold-blooded animals currently live with the temperatures and areas where they could live based on their temperature tolerance.
They found that unlike ocean-dwelling species, terrestrial animals such as reptiles, amphibians and insects have living ranges that are less directly affected by temperature. Researchers say that the higher the population of a species of these animals at a given latitude, the less inclined it is to live in areas near the equator with temperatures it can tolerate. This means that rather than tolerance of temperature, negative interactions with other species – such as competitors or parasites – could be what keeps these species away from this potential habitat.
“It was not surprising to find that temperature does not always limit the ranges of species,” says Nikki A. Moore, a doctoral student and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. “What was surprising was that, despite the complexity, we found general patterns in The role that temperature plays across species.
“This research helps us understand general patterns in how sensitive the distributions of different species of cold-blooded animals are to changes in temperature, which will help us predict how the global distribution of species will change due to climate change,” Nikki adds in the press release published on the university’s website.
The pattern that predicts the distribution of a species
The pattern Moore and her colleagues found helps resolve two conflicting hypotheses about the distribution of life on Earth as to which has more influence on the distribution of species; Is it temperature, or interactions between different species and each other?
While it has long been thought that species’ ranges are determined less by temperature, and that species’ ranges are more restricted by species interactions in the tropics, the new work shows that species at higher latitudes are increasingly excluded from their potential ranges in the tropics, says Moore. , supporting the idea that there is a “trade-off between broad thermal tolerance and performance in the tropics.”
While these results provide insight into the sensitivities of species in different worlds and across latitudes to climate change, the next step for this research is to test these predictions using actual observations of species range changes, the researchers say.
Predicting and testing how species distributions respond to temperature requires good observations of where species live, researchers say.