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.
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Pan-tropical climate connectivity data that support the findings of this study are available on Figshare (DOI: 10.15131/shef.data.8340578).
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).
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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).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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
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Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1–6 and Supplementary References.
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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
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