SYMP 21-4
Niche syndromes, species extinction risks and management under climate change

Thursday, August 8, 2013: 3:10 PM
Auditorium, Rm 3, Minneapolis Convention Center
Dov F. Sax, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI
Regan Early, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Cornwall, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Jesse Bellemare, Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College, Northampton, MA

The historical distributions of species are often assumed to correspond with the total set of environmental conditions under which species can persist. However, when this assumption is incorrect, extinction risk estimated from species distribution models will be misleading. The degree to which species can tolerate or even thrive under conditions found beyond their historical distributions alters extinction risks, time lags in realizing those risks, and management strategies available.


We propose a conceptual framework for distinguishing among these alternatives that relies upon empirically characterizing the realized, fundamental and ‘tolerance’ niche of species. Although these niche components have rarely been characterized over geographic scales, we suggest that this could be done for many plant species by comparing native, naturalized and horticultural distributions. Doing so will advance our understanding of how niches map onto geographic space, will inform which species are at no, immediate or delayed risk of extinction from climate change, and will inform the application of management strategies such as managed relocation and managed stasis. We provide several empirical examples to illustrate this approach.