CR 32:151-158 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr032151

Constraints to projecting the effects of climate change on mammals

D. Berteaux1,*, M. M. Humphries2, C. J. Krebs3, M. Lima4, A. G. McAdam5, N. Pettorelli6, D. Réale7, T. Saitoh8, E. Tkadlec9, R. B. Weladji6, N. Chr. Stenseth10

1Canada Research Chair in Conservation of Northern Ecosystems and Centre d’études nordiques, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec G5L 381, Canada
2Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus, McGill University, 21-111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec H9X 3V9, Canada
3Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
4Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago CP 6513677, Chile
5Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, Department of Zoology, 13 Natural Resources Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA
6Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada
7Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Ecology, Université du Québec à Montréal, CP 8888-succursalle centre-ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8, Canada
8Field Science Center, Hokkaido University, North 11, West 10, Sapporo 060-0811, Japan
9Palacky University, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Tr. Svobody 26, 771 46 Olomouc and Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 675 02 Studenec, Czech Republic
10Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway

ABSTRACT: Ecologists are under pressure to anticipate the ecological effects of climate change. Therefore many ecological publications (and most grant proposals) related to climate claim relevance to the projection of future climate change effects. Yet the steps leading from ecological description and understanding to reliable projection are rarely explicit. A good understanding of the factors which allow the ecological effects of climate change to be effectively anticipated is critical to both the quality of basic science and its application to public policy. We used research performed on mammals to explore scientific approaches to anticipation of climate change effects. We distinguished forecasting models based on correlations from predictive models based on cause-effect relationships. These categories represent extremes along a continuous gradient between pattern description and causal understanding. We suggest that the constraints to our capacity to anticipate fall into 6 broad categories rooted in the development and application of forecasting and predictive models. These categories help to identify the conditions that allow or prevent projection of the effects of climate change on ecosystems. This approach should also help to identify which research avenues will likely be most fruitful.


KEY WORDS: Cause-effect relationships · Climate change · Ecology · Forecasting · Mammals · Models · Prediction · Scientific projection · Time series


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