Do Empirical Observations Support Commonly-Held Climate Change Range Shift Hypotheses? A Systematic Review Protocol

Madeleine A. Rubenstein, Sarah R. Weiskopf, Shawn L. Carter, Mitchell J. Eaton, Ciara Johnson, Abigail J. Lynch, Brian W. Miller, et al.
Posted on: 5/20/2024 - Updated on: 5/20/2024

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Among the most widely anticipated climate-related impacts to biodiversity are geographic range shifts, whereby species shift their spatial distribution in response to changing climate conditions. In particular, a series of commonly articulated hypotheses have emerged: species are expected to shift their distributions to higher latitudes, greater elevations, and deeper depths in response to climate change, reflecting an underlying hypothesis that species will move to cooler locations to track spatial changes in the temperature of their current range. Yet, many species are not demonstrating range shifts consistent with these hypotheses. Resolving this discrepancy and providing effective explanations for the observed variability in species’ range shifts is urgently needed to help support a range of natural resource management decisions. 

Here, we propose a protocol to review the body of evidence for commonly-held climate change range shift hypotheses at the species level focusing on observed latitudinal, longitudinal, elevational, and depth shifts in response to temperature and precipitation changes. We aim to answer the question: what is the impact of anthropogenic climate change (specifically changes in temperature and precipitation) on species ranges?


Rubenstein, M.A., Weiskopf, S.R., Carter, S.L., Eaton, M.J., Johnson, C., Lynch, A.J., Miller, B.W., Morelli, T.L., Rodriguez, M.A., Terando, A., Thompson, L.M. (2020). Environmental Evidence, 9:10.

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