Frontiers of Biogeography (FoB) is the scientific magazine of the International Biogeography Society (IBS, www.biogeography.org), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promotion of and public understanding of the biogeographical sciences. IBS launched FoB to provide an independent forum for biogeographical science, with the academic standards expected of a journal operated by and for an academic society.
Volume 7, Issue 4, 2015
Modelling the soil microclimate: does the spatial or temporal resolution of input parameters matter?
The urgency of predicting future impacts of environmental change on vulnerable populations is advancing the development of spatially explicit habitat models. Continental-scale climate and microclimate layers are now widely available. However, most terrestrial organisms exist within microclimate spaces that are very small, relative to the spatial resolution of those layers. We examined the effects of multi-resolution, multi-extent topographic and climate inputs on the accuracy of hourly soil temperature predictions for a small island generated at a very high spatial resolution (<1 m2) using the mechanistic microclimate model in NicheMapR. Achieving an accuracy comparable to lower-resolution, continental-scale microclimate layers (within about 2–3°C of observed values) required the use of daily weather data as well as high resolution topographic layers (elevation, slope, aspect, horizon angles), while inclusion of site-specific soil properties did not markedly improve predictions. Our results suggest that large-extent microclimate layers may not provide accurate estimates of microclimate conditions when the spatial extent of a habitat or other area of interest is similar to or smaller than the spatial resolution of the layers themselves. Thus, effort in sourcing model inputs should be focused on obtaining high resolution terrain data, e.g., via LiDAR or photogrammetry, and local weather information rather than in situ sampling of microclimate characteristics.
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Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews
The Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), established in 2012 to counter the biodiversity crisis, requires the best scientific input available to function as a successful science-policy interface that addresses the knowledge needs of governments for safeguarding nature and its services. For the macroecological research community, IPBES presents a great opportunity to contribute knowledge, data and methods, and to help identify and address knowledge gaps and methodological impediments. Here, we outline our perspectives on how macroecology may contribute to IPBES. We focus on three essential topics for the IPBES process, where contributions by macroecologists will be invaluable: biodiversity data, biodiversity modelling, and modelling of ecosystem services. For each topic, we discuss the potential for contributions from the macroecological community, as well as limitations, challenges, and knowledge gaps. Overall, engagement of the macroecological community with IPBES should lead to mutual benefits. Macroecologists may profit as their contributions to IPBES may strengthen and inspire them as a community to design and conduct research that provides society-relevant results. Furthermore, macroecological contributions will help IPBES become a successful instrument of knowledge exchange and uncover the linkages between biodiversity and human well-being.
Spatial environmental heterogeneity (EH) is considered one of the most important factors promoting species richness, but no general consent about the EH–richness relationship exists so far. This is because research methods and study settings vary widely, and because non-significant and negative associations have also been reported. My thesis provides a comprehensive review of the different measurements and terminologies of EH used in the literature, and presents strong quantitative evidence of a generally positive relationship between biotic and abiotic EH and species richness of terrestrial plants and animals from landscape to global extents. In a meta-analysis and a subsequent case study comparing multiple EH measures and their association with mammal species richness worldwide, I furthermore reveal that the outcome of EH–richness studies depends strongly on study design, including both the EH measure chosen and spatial scale. My research contributes to a better understanding of the EH–richness relationship, while identifying future research needs.
Where are the tropical plants? A call for better inclusion of tropical plants in studies investigating and predicting the effects of climate change
Tropical plant species are systematically underrepresented in large-scale analyses or synthesis looking at the potential effects of global climate change. The reason being that we simply don’t know enough about the distributions and ecologies of most tropical plant species to predict their fate under climate change. This gaping hole in our knowledge is extremely worrisome given the high diversity of tropical plants, the crucial roles that they play in supporting global diversity and ecosystem function, and the elevated threats that climate change may pose to tropical species in general.
The diversification of species, breeds, and landraces inherent to the domestication of useful taxa is associated with range shifts. As a result, biogeography has many opportunties to interact with new findings about domestication to add an important spatial dimension to research efforts.
Tropical forests, such as this montane cloud forest at approximately 1500 m asl in southeastern Peru, house many thousands of plant species that are highly sensitive to climate but that are also severely underrepresented in studies predicting the potential impacts of climate change on species' extinction risks. Picture by K.J. Feeley.