The fate of European breeding birds under climate, land-use and dispersal scenarios

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Many species have already shifted their distributions in response to recent climate change. Here, we aimed at predicting the future breeding distributions of European birds under climate, land-use, and dispersal scenarios. We predicted current and future distributions of 409 species within an ensemble forecast framework using seven species distribution models (SDMs), five climate scenarios and three emission and land-use scenarios. We then compared results from SDMs using climate-only variables, habitat-only variables or both climate and habitat variables. In order to account for a species’ dispersal abilities, we used natal dispersal estimates and developed a probabilistic method that produced a dispersal scenario intermediate between the null and full dispersal scenarios generally considered in such studies. We then compared results from all scenarios in terms of future predicted range changes, range shifts, and variations in species richness. Modeling accuracy was better with climate-only variables than with habitat-only variables, and better with both climate and habitat variables. Habitat models predicted smaller range shifts and smaller variations in range size and species richness than climate models. Using both climate and habitat variables, it was predicted that the range of 71% of the species would decrease by 2050, with a 335 km median shift. Predicted variations in species richness showed large decreases in the southern regions of Europe, as well as increases, mainly in Scandinavia and northern Russia. The partial dispersal scenario was significantly different from the full dispersal scenario for 25% of the species, resulting in the local reduction of the future predicted species richness of up to 10%. We concluded that the breeding range of most European birds will decrease in spite of dispersal abilities close to a full dispersal hypothesis, and that given the contrasted predictions obtained when modeling climate change only and land-use change only, both scenarios must be taken into consideration.

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