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Time series identify population responses to climate change

Biologists have for several years modeled how different species are likely to respond to climate change. Most such studies ignore differences between populations within a species and the interactions between species, in the interest of simplicity. An article in the June issue of BioScience, by Eric Post of Pennsylvania State University and five colleagues, shows how these limitations can be avoided. Their approach, which relies on multi-stage analyses of how populations fluctuate over time, could allow biologists to model responses to climate change with improved accuracy. In particular, the approach could help identify regions where local populations are vulnerable to climate change, and it could elucidate species interactions that may not be obvious.

The article concentrates on recent analyses by Post and others of yellow-billed cuckoos, caribou/wild reindeer, elk and red deer, and wolves and moose. Continent-wide and hemisphere-wide responses depended both on local weather and on broader climate patterns, and all species showed marked variation among populations. The pattern of responses, Post and colleagues report, “suggests a strong role for species interactions in buffering responses to climate.” For example, local populations near the northern edge of a species’ range often seem to be more directly affected by climate than do populations near the southern edge, where biological interactions typically complicate responses to climate change.

The time series approach described by Post and colleagues is intended to supplement simpler methods rather than replace them. It can only be used on species for which there are detailed abundance records extending over, ideally, 25 years or more. Still, the authors note, refinements in statistical techniques are starting to allow more imperfect data to be analyzed, and data are accumulating, so the outlook for time-series analysis is promising.

After noon EST on June 1, the full text of the article will be available for free download through the copy of this Press Release available at http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/

BioScience, published 11 times per year, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on “Organisms from Molecules to the Environment.” The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

The complete list of research articles in the June 2009 issue of BioScience is as follows:

Molecular Data Are Transforming Hypotheses on the Origin and Diversification of Eukaryotes.

Yonas I. Tekle, Laura Wegener Parfrey, and Laura A. Katz

The Resource Discovery Initiative for Field Stations: Enhancing Data Management at North American Biological Field Stations.

James W. Brunt and William K. Michener

Global Population Dynamics and Hot Spots of Response to Climate Change.

Eric Post, Jedediah Brodie, Mark Hebblewhite, Angela D. Anders, Julie A. K. Maier, and Christopher C. Wilmers

Alternative Reference Frames in River System Science.

Martin W. Doyle and Scott H. Ensign

Ecosystem Thinking in the Northern Forest?and Beyond.

Gene E. Likens and Jerry F. Franklin

Training Tomorrow’s Environmental Problem Solvers: An Integrative Approach to Graduate Education.

Jennifer M. Moslemi, Krista A. Capps, Mark S. Johnson, Jude Maul, Peter B. McIntyre, April M. Melvin, Timothy M. Vadas, Dena M. Vallano, James M. Watkins, and Marissa Weiss




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