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Ecology. 2011 Dec;92(12):2214-21.

Does including physiology improve species distribution model predictions of responses to recent climate change?

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Thermal constraints on development are often invoked to predict insect distributions. These constraints tend to be characterized in species distribution models (SDMs) by calculating development time based on a constant lower development temperature (LDT). Here, we assessed whether species-specific estimates of LDT based on laboratory experiments can improve the ability of SDMs to predict the distribution shifts of six U.K. butterflies in response to recent climate warming. We find that species-specific and constant (5 degrees C) LDT degree-day models perform similarly at predicting distributions during the period of 1970-1982. However, when the models for the 1970-1982 period are projected to predict distributions in 1995-1999 and 2000-2004, species-specific LDT degree-day models modestly outperform constant LDT degree-day models. Our results suggest that, while including species-specific physiology in correlative models may enhance predictions of species' distribution responses to climate change, more detailed models may be needed to adequately account for interspecific physiological differences.

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