Species Distributions

Understanding the implications on global climate and land use change on the distribution of species is an essential component for effective conservation strategies. I include a temporally holistic perspective of past, current, and projected future species distributions to understand the implications of population change on species distributions and to direct specific conservation activities. Specifically, my research on dynamic species distributions focuses on three main topics:

1) Historical elevational shifts of species distributions.

This paper (DeLuca and King 2017) found that across 10 mountains in the Presidential Range, White Mountains, NH, high elevation birds shifted downslope while lower elevation birds shifted upslope between 1993 and 2009.

2) Effects of population trends on species climate niches and their ability to track climate change. 

A classic concept in ecology is that habitat niche breadth varies with population fluctuations. Here we (Ralston, DeLuca et al. 2016, Global Ecology and Biogeography) show that this concept also applies to species' climate niches. We used Breeding Bird Survey data from 1980-2012 to show that realized climate niche breadth is variable on an ecological time scale as a function of population trend.

Does a species population trend influence its ability track climate change? Turns out that species with declining population trends (triangles) are more likely to lag behind climate change (Ralston, DeLuca et al. 2016, Global Change Biology). These findings have important implications for conservation and modeling dynamic species distributions in the face of climate change.

3) Informing landscape conservation designs with current species Landscape Capability models and predicted species refugia maps.  

The Designing Sustainable Landscapes Project uses 31 current species distribution models and future refugia models given climate change, urban growth and sea level rise to inform a regional Landscape Conservation Design implemented by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Nature's Network.