Climate-induced range overlap among closely related species

Journal name:
Nature Climate Change
Year published:
Published online

Contemporary climate change is causing large shifts in biotic distributions1, which has the potential to bring previously isolated, closely related species into contact2. This has led to concern that hybridization and competition could threaten species persistence3. Here, we use bioclimatic models to show that future range overlap by the end of the century is predicted for only 6.4% of isolated, congeneric species pairs of New World birds, mammals and amphibians. Projected rates of climate-induced overlap are higher for birds (11.6%) than for mammals (4.4%) or amphibians (3.6%). As many species will have difficulty tracking shifting climates4, actual rates of future overlap are likely to be far lower, suggesting that hybridization and competition impacts may be relatively modest.

At a glance


  1. Projected future overlap for isolated, congeneric species of New World birds, mammals and amphibians.
    Figure 1: Projected future overlap for isolated, congeneric species of New World birds, mammals and amphibians.

    Coloured cells in map indicate areas where new overlap among species pairs is predicted by >5 of 10 GCMs; grey cells indicate areas where a majority of GCMs do not predict new overlap. The green line shows the number of non-overlapping species pairs at present, by latitude.

  2. Current geographic range size and proportion of future range in overlap.
    Figure 2: Current geographic range size and proportion of future range in overlap.

    ad, Current geographic range sizes of non-overlapping species (grey bars), and the proportion of each range size class projected to come into future geographic contact with an isolated congener (hashed bars) for all taxa (a), birds (b), amphibians (c) and mammals (d).

  3. The percentage of a species[rsquor] future bioclimatic envelope projected to overlap with that of an isolated congener.
    Figure 3: The percentage of a species future bioclimatic envelope projected to overlap with that of an isolated congener.

    Individual species may be represented more than once, as several species are projected to come into future overlap with more than one congener.

  4. The percentage of future range in overlap as a function of future range size.
    Figure 4: The percentage of future range in overlap as a function of future range size.

    This is calculated as the percentage of each species (si) future bioclimatic envelope projected to overlap with a currently isolated congener (sj), as a function of the future bioclimatic envelope size of si. The trend line represents a linear regression model (R2 = 0.358, d.f. = 1,614, P < 0.001).


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Author information

  1. Present addresses: National Audubon Society, 220 Montgomery Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, California 94104-3402, USA (C.B.W.); Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Biology, 310 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA (J.L.M.); Division of Science and Environmental Policy California State University, Monterey Bay 100 Campus Center Seaside, California 93955-8000, USA (J.M.D.).

    • Chad B. Wilsey,
    • Jenny L. McGuire &
    • Jennifer M. Duggan


  1. Department of Biology, University of Washington, Box 351800 Seattle, Washington 98195-1800, USA

    • Meade Krosby &
    • Joshua J. Tewksbury
  2. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Box 355674, Seattle, Washington 98195-5674, USA

    • Meade Krosby
  3. School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Box 352100 Seattle, Washington 98195-2100, USA

    • Chad B. Wilsey,
    • Jenny L. McGuire,
    • Jennifer M. Duggan,
    • Theresa M. Nogeire,
    • Julie A. Heinrichs &
    • Joshua J. Lawler
  4. Luc Hoffman Institute, WWF International, Avenue du Mont-Blanc 1196 Gland, Switzerland

    • Joshua J. Tewksbury


M.K. conceived the study. M.K., C.B.W., J.M.D., J.L.M., J.A.H., T.M.N., J.J.T. and J.J.L. designed the analysis. C.B.W. and J.M.D. conducted most of the data analysis, with additional analysis completed by J.L.M., T.M.N., J.A.H. and M.K. M.K., J.J.L., J.J.T., C.B.W. and J.M.D. wrote the paper.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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