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J Theor Biol. 2007 Mar 7;245(1):59-65. Epub 2006 Oct 20.

Modelling species' range shifts in a changing climate: the impacts of biotic interactions, dispersal distance and the rate of climate change.

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The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK.


There is an urgent need for accurate prediction of climate change impacts on species ranges. Current reliance on bioclimatic envelope approaches ignores important biological processes such as interactions and dispersal. Although much debated, it is unclear how such processes might influence range shifting. Using individual-based modelling we show that interspecific interactions and dispersal ability interact with the rate of climate change to determine range-shifting dynamics in a simulated community with two growth forms--mutualists and competitors. Interactions determine spatial arrangements of species prior to the onset of rapid climate change. These lead to space-occupancy effects that limit the rate of expansion of the fast-growing competitors but which can be overcome by increased long-distance dispersal. As the rate of climate change increases, lower levels of long-distance dispersal can drive the mutualists to extinction, demonstrating the potential for subtle process balances, non-linear dynamics and abrupt changes from species coexistence to species loss during climate change.

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