Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Global loss of climate connectivity in tropical forests

An Author Correction to this article was published on 12 August 2019

This article has been updated

Abstract

Range shifts are a crucial mechanism enabling species to avoid extinction under climate change1,2. The majority of terrestrial biodiversity is concentrated in the tropics3, including species considered most vulnerable to climate warming4, but extensive and ongoing deforestation of tropical forests is likely to impede range shifts5,6. We conduct a global assessment of the potential for tropical species to reach analogous future climates—‘climate connectivity’—and empirically test how this has changed in response to deforestation between 2000 and 2012. We find that over 62% of tropical forest area (~10 million km2) is already incapable of facilitating range shifts to analogous future climates. In just 12 years, continued deforestation has caused a loss of climate connectivity for over 27% of surviving tropical forest, with accelerating declines in connectivity as forest loss increased. On average, if species’ ranges shift as far down climate gradients as permitted by existing forest connectivity, by 2070 they would still experience 0.77 °C of warming under the least severe climate warming scenario and up to 2.6 °C warming for the most severe scenario. Limiting further forest loss and focusing the global restoration agenda towards creating climate corridors are global priorities for improving resilience of tropical forest biotas under climate change.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Maps of current climate connectivity and change in climate connectivity over time.
Fig. 2: Climate connectivity of land masses in different biogeographic realms.
Fig. 3: The proportion of total forested area in each land mass that lost climate connectivity between 2000 and 2012.

Data availability

Pan-tropical climate connectivity data that support the findings of this study are available on Figshare (DOI: 10.15131/shef.data.8340578).

Code availability

Custom Python code to calculate climate connectivity will be available on GitHub (https://github.com/rasenior/ClimateConnectivity). These scripts have been directly adapted from the methods in McGuire et al.6 and the R code therein (https://github.com/JennyMcGuire/ClimateConnectivity).

Change history

  • 12 August 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.

References

  1. 1.

    Chen, I.-C., Hill, J. K., Ohlemüller, R., Roy, D. B. & Thomas, C. D. Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science 333, 1024–1026 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Parmesan, C. Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annu. Rev. Ecol., Evol., Syst. 37, 637–669 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Jenkins, C. N., Pimm, S. L. & Joppa, L. N. Global patterns of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and conservation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, E2602–E2610 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Sunday, J. M. et al. Thermal-safety margins and the necessity of thermoregulatory behavior across latitude and elevation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 5610–5615 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Taubert, F. et al. Global patterns of tropical forest fragmentation. Nature 554, 519–522 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    McGuire, J. L., Lawler, J. J., McRae, B. H. & Theobald, D. M. Achieving climate connectivity in a fragmented landscape. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 7195–7200 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Tucker, M. A. et al. Moving in the Anthropocene: global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements. Science 359, 466–469 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Lewis, S. L., Edwards, D. P. & Galbraith, D. Increasing human dominance of tropical forests. Science 349, 827–832 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Mora, C. et al. The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. Nature 502, 183–187 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Opdam, P. & Wascher, D. Climate change meets habitat fragmentation: linking landscape and biogeographical scale levels in research and conservation. Biol. Conserv. 117, 285–297 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Loarie, S. R. et al. The velocity of climate change. Nature 462, 1052–1055 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Littlefield, C. E., McRae, B. H., Michalak, J. L., Lawler, J. J. & Carroll, C. Connecting today’s climates to future climate analogs to facilitate movement of species under climate change. Conserv. Biol. 31, 1397–1408 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Nuñez, T. A. et al. Connectivity planning to address climate change. Conserv. Biol. 27, 407–416 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Lawler, J. J., Ruesch, A. S., Olden, J. D. & McRae, B. H. Projected climate-driven faunal movement routes. Ecol. Lett. 16, 1014–1022 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Hansen, M. C. et al. High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science 342, 850–853 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Hijmans, R. J., Cameron, S. E., Parra, J. L., Jones, P. G. & Jarvis, A. Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. Int. J. Climatol. 25, 1965–1978 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  18. 18.

    Haddad, N. M. et al. Habitat fragmentation and its lasting impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Sci. Adv. 1, e1500052 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Green, R. E., Cornell, S. J., Scharlemann, J. P. W. & Balmford, A. Farming and the fate of wild nature. Science 307, 550–555 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Elsen, P. R., Monahan, W. B. & Merenlender, A. M. Global patterns of protection of elevational gradients in mountain ranges. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 6004–6009 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Early, R. & Sax, D. F. Analysis of climate paths reveals potential limitations on species range shifts. Ecol. Lett. 14, 1125–1133 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Lees, A. C. & Peres, C. A. Conservation value of remnant riparian forest corridors of varying quality for Amazonian birds and mammals. Conserv. Biol. 22, 439–449 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Pacifici, M., Visconti, P. & Rondinini, C. A framework for the identification of hotspots of climate change risk for mammals. Glob. Change Biol. 24, 1626–1636 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Brito-Morales, I. et al. Climate velocity can inform conservation in a warming world. Trends Ecol. Evol. 33, 441–457 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Sunday, J. M., Bates, A. E. & Dulvy, N. K. Thermal tolerance and the global redistribution of animals. Nat. Clim. Change 2, 686–690 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Araújo, M. B. et al. Heat freezes niche evolution. Ecol. Lett. 16, 1206–1219 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Socolar, J. B., Epanchin, P. N., Beissinger, S. R. & Tingley, M. W. Phenological shifts conserve thermal niches in North American birds and reshape expectations for climate-driven range shifts. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 12976–12981 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Schloss, C. A., Nuñez, T. A. & Lawler, J. J. Dispersal will limit ability of mammals to track climate change in the western hemisphere. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 8606–8611 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Bonte, D. et al. Costs of dispersal. Biol. Rev. 87, 290–312 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Senior, R. A., Hill, J. K., Benedick, S. & Edwards, D. P. Tropical forests are thermally buffered despite intensive selective logging. Glob. Change Biol. 24, 1267–1278 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Sanford, T., Frumhoff, P. C., Luers, A. & Gulledge, J. The climate policy narrative for a dangerously warming world. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 164–166 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Corlett, R. T. Climate change in the tropics: The end of the world as we know it? Biol. Conserv. 151, 22–25 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    ArcGIS Desktop: Release 10 (ESRI, 2011).

  34. 34.

    Freeman, B. G. & Class Freeman, A. M. Rapid upslope shifts in New Guinean birds illustrate strong distributional responses of tropical montane species to global warming. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 4490–4494 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Raxworthy, C. J. et al. Extinction vulnerability of tropical montane endemism from warming and upslope displacement: a preliminary appraisal for the highest massif in Madagascar. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 1703–1720 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    R Core Team. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2018).

  37. 37.

    Zuur, A. F. Mixed Effects Models and Extensions in Ecology with R (Springer, 2009).

  38. 38.

    Wood, S. N. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R (CRC Press, 2017).

  39. 39.

    Bates, D., Mächler, M., Bolker, B. & Walker, S. Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. J. Stat. Softw. 67, 1–48 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Aide, T. M. et al. Deforestation and reforestation of Latin America and the Caribbean (2001–2010). Biotropica 45, 262–271 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank J. L. McGuire for making code publicly available and for providing us with additional help and guidance. We are grateful to M. Pacifici for providing maps of climate vulnerability and BirdLife International for providing maps of Key Biodiversity Areas. We thank C. D. Thomas for her comments and suggestions in the revision of the manuscript. Thanks also to F. K. S. Lim, P. J. Platts and S. A. Scriven for helpful discussions. R.A.S. was funded by a NERC studentship through the ACCE (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment) Doctoral Training Partnership (Grant No. NE/L002450/1).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

R.A.S. and D.P.E conceived the study. R.A.S., D.P.E. and J.K.H developed the methods, with R.A.S. writing scripts to calculate climate connectivity and performing statistical analyses. R.A.S. wrote the first draft of the manuscript, with contributions from D.P.E. and J.K.H.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca A. Senior.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Robert Colwell, Marlee Tucker and other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1–6 and Supplementary References.

Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Senior, R.A., Hill, J.K. & Edwards, D.P. Global loss of climate connectivity in tropical forests. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 623–626 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0529-2

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing