, Volume 18, Issue 12, pp 3185-3203
Date: 21 Apr 2009

Biodiversity monitoring: some proposals to adequately study species’ responses to climate change

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Abstract

Climate change affects all levels of biology and is a major threat for biodiversity. Hence, it is fundamental to run biodiversity monitoring programs to understand the effects of climate change on the biota and to be able to adjust management and conservation accordingly. So far, however, very few existing monitoring programs allow for the detection of climate change effects, as shown by a survey undertaken by the European project EuMon. Despite this shortcoming, several methods exist which allow to make inferences from existing data by integrating data across different monitoring programs: correlative analyses, meta-analyses and models. In addition, experiments are thought to be useful tools to understand the effects of climate change on plants and animals. Here, we evaluate the utility of these four main approaches. All these methods allow to evaluate long term effects of climate change and make predictions of species’ future development, but they are arguable. We list and compare their benefits and inconveniences, which can lead to uncertainties in the extrapolation of species responses to global climate change. Individual characteristics and population parameters have to be more frequently monitored. The potential evolution of a species should be also modelled, to extrapolate results across spatial and temporal scales as well as to analyse the combined effects of different climatic and biotic factors, including intra but also interspecific relationships. We conclude that a combination of methodologies would be the most promising tool for the assessment of biological responses to climate change, and we provide some thoughts about how to do so. Particularly, we encourage long-term studies along natural gradients (altitudinal or latitudinal) on the same species/habitats to be able to extrapolate to large geographic scales, and to have more complete data sets, necessary to understand the mechanisms of responses. Such data may provide a more accurate base for simulations across spatial and temporal scales, especially if they are publicly available in a common database. These recommendations could allow the adaptation of species management and the development of conservation tools to climate change which threatens species.