Australian species, extreme weather and climate change

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Ecography and models Australian mammal responses to extreme weather, providing new insights into constraints on range and likely climate change impacts. The researchers show how utilizing spatial predictors of extreme temperature and water availability (heat-waves and droughts), derived from high-temporal resolution, long-term weather records, provides categorically different predictions about the future (2070) distribution of suitable environments for 188 mammal species across different biomes (from arid zones to tropical environments) covering the whole of continental Australia. Models based on long-term averages-only and extreme conditions-only showed similarly high predictive performance tested by hold-out cross-validation on current data, and yet some predicted dramatically different future geographic ranges for the same species under 2070 climate scenarios. The results highlight the importance of accounting for extreme conditions/events by identifying areas in the landscape where species may cope with average conditions, but cannot persist under extreme conditions known or predicted to occur there. The researchers conclude that this approach provides an important step toward identifying the location of climate change refuges and danger zones that goes beyond the current standard of extrapolating long-term climate averages. Download the article here.