Niche syndromes, species extinction risks, and management under climate change

Here are some opinions on a recent article I published with Dov Sax and Jesse Bellemare. These bloggers have had the clever idea of setting up an online journal club – wonderful for all those who need a little stimulating discussion outside of their immediate research group. The blog was quite nice to us, but as you can see some doubts were raised about the everyday usefulness of the ‘tolerance niche’ that we identify, and methods that could be used to investigate it. Hopefully our ongoing research will demonstrate that this is a useful and mensurable concept.

PEGE Journal Club

DF Sax, R Early, and J Bellamare. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28(9): 517-523. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.010. Niche syndromes, species extinction risks, and management under climate change


I chose this paper before I knew that Lynsey and Will were to review a very similar one just two weeks earlier, coincidence or something more sinister? Actually, I don’t think either of those things, but is in fact due to a new phase in the field of species distribution modelling (SDM), one in which concepts are clarified and the assumptions of models are questioned and tested. Well that’s my hope anyway…. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that a big assumption made by those practicing the dark art of SDM, namely a linear relationship between the realised niche (the area of environmental space actually occupied by a species) and the true environmental tolerance limits of a species does not exist, at least not for most…

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