Alaska Science Center
Future distribution of tundra refugia in northern Alaska
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Full Publication: https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1926
Product Type: Journal Article
Climate change in the Arctic is a growing concern for natural resource conservation and management as a result of accelerated warming and associated shifts in the distribution and abundance of northern species. We introduce a predictive framework for assessing the future extent of Arctic tundra and boreal biomes in northern Alaska. We use geo-referenced museum specimens to predict the velocity of distributional change into the next century and compare predicted tundra refugial areas with current land-use. The reliability of predicted distributions, including differences between fundamental and realized niches, for two groups of species is strengthened by fossils and genetic signatures of demographic shifts. Evolutionary responses to environmental change through the late Quaternary are generally consistent with past distribution models. Predicted future refugia overlap managed areas and indicate potential hotspots for tundra diversity. To effectively assess future refugia, variable responses among closely related species to climate change warrants careful consideration of both evolutionary and ecological histories.