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Adjusting the lens of invasion biology to focus on the impacts of climate-driven range shifts


As Earth’s climate rapidly changes, species range shifts are considered key to species persistence. However, some range-shifting species will alter community structure and ecosystem processes. By adapting existing invasion risk assessment frameworks, we can identify characteristics shared with high-impact introductions and thus predict potential impacts. There are fundamental differences between introduced and range-shifting species, primarily shared evolutionary histories between range shifters and their new community. Nevertheless, impacts can occur via analogous mechanisms, such as wide dispersal, community disturbance and low biotic resistance. As ranges shift in response to climate change, we have an opportunity to develop plans to facilitate advantageous movements and limit those that are problematic.

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Fig. 1: Risk assessments for biological introductions focus on the importance of three main components that lead to the successful establishment and spread of species: the introduction of propagules, the abiotic environment and biotic interactions.
Fig. 2: Range shifters can impact recipient communities.
Fig. 3: As climate change alters environmental conditions, range shifts can lead to new species interactions and changes to community structures depending on the magnitude of associated impacts.


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This work was initiated at a working group led by C.J.B.S., B.A.B., A.E.B., and R.E. and was supported by the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation. We thank R. Whitlock for his insight during initial discussions, V. Pasquarella for her comments on an early draft, and C. Millar and J. McMullen who provided valuable feedback. Funding for this project was provided in the form of a University of Michigan catalyst grant to I.I., and from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station, the U.S. Geological Survey Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Department of Environmental Conservation under Project Number MAS00033 to B.A.B. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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T.L.M., C.J.B.S. and P.D.W. conceptualized the idea for this Review independently. T.L.M. and P.D.W. proposed the project, led breakout sessions during the working group and managed the project throughout its development, including writing, reviewing and editing all manuscript versions. B.A.B. and C.J.B.S. provided invaluable feedback throughout the project and contributed though mentoring and supervision, as well as writing and in-depth review. B.A.B., B.B.L., T.L.M. and P.D.W. created figure visualizations. J.M.A., E.M.B., D.M.B., J.S.D., R.E., E.J.F., D.E.G., I.I., B.B.L. and M.V. contributed equally to writing and providing feedback.

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Correspondence to Toni Lyn Morelli.

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Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks I-Ching Chen, Jorge E. Ramos and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Wallingford, P.D., Morelli, T.L., Allen, J.M. et al. Adjusting the lens of invasion biology to focus on the impacts of climate-driven range shifts. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 398–405 (2020).

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