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Cross-realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends


Climate change, land-use change, pollution and exploitation are among the main drivers of species’ population trends; however, their relative importance is much debated. We used a unique collection of over 1,000 local population time series in 22 communities across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms within central Europe to compare the impacts of long-term temperature change and other environmental drivers from 1980 onwards. To disentangle different drivers, we related species’ population trends to species- and driver-specific attributes, such as temperature and habitat preference or pollution tolerance. We found a consistent impact of temperature change on the local abundances of terrestrial species. Populations of warm-dwelling species increased more than those of cold-dwelling species. In contrast, impacts of temperature change on aquatic species’ abundances were variable. Effects of temperature preference were more consistent in terrestrial communities than effects of habitat preference, suggesting that the impacts of temperature change have become widespread for recent changes in abundance within many terrestrial communities of central Europe.

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Figure 1: Relationship between species’ temperature preferences and population trends under climate change.
Figure 2: Climate change impacts on local communities.
Figure 3: Impacts of environmental drivers on population trends.


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We thank Bayerisches Landesamt für Umwelt, Sächsisches Landesamt für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Geologie, Landesanstalt für Umwelt, Messungen und Naturschutz Baden-Württemberg, Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Nordrhein-Westfalen, Hessisches Landesamt für Umwelt und Geologie and the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Program (TMAP) for sharing and providing permission to use their data for our project. Additionally, we appreciate the open access marine data provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. We thank the following scientists for taxonomic or technical advice: C. Brendel, T. Caprano, R. Claus, K. Desender, A. Flakus, P. R. Flakus, S. Fritz, E.-M. Gerstner, J.-P. Maelfait, E.-L. Neuschulz, S. Pauls, C. Printzen, I. Schmitt and H. Turin, and I. Bartomeus for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. R.A. was supported by the EU-project LIMNOTIP funded under the seventh European Commission Framework Programme (FP7) ERA-Net Scheme (Biodiversa, 01LC1207A) and the long-term ecological research program at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB). R.W.B. was supported by the Scottish Government Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) through Theme 3 of their Strategic Research Programme. S.D. acknowledges support of the German Research Foundation DFG (grant DO 1880/1-1). S.S. acknowledges the support from the FP7 project EU BON (grant no. 308454). S.K., I.Kü. and O.S. acknowledge funding thorough the Helmholtz Association’s Programme Oriented Funding, Topic ‘Land use, biodiversity, and ecosystem services: Sustaining human livelihoods’. O.S. also acknowledges the support from FP7 via the Integrated Project STEP (grant no. 244090). D.E.B. was funded by a Landes–Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich–ökonomischer Exzellenz (LOEWE) excellence initiative of the Hessian Ministry for Science and the Arts and the German Research Foundation (DFG: Grant no. BO 1221/23-1).

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D.E.B. performed the analysis and wrote the outline of the paper with K.B.G. The study and analysis was perceived and designed by D.E.B., C.H., P.H., I.Kr., O.S. and K.B.G. All remaining authors contributed data towards the analysis. All authors helped draft the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Diana E. Bowler.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Bowler, D., Hof, C., Haase, P. et al. Cross-realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0067 (2017).

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