Evidence Resources

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Do empirical observations support commonly-held climate change range shift hypotheses? A systematic review protocol



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?


In this review protocol, we propose to conduct a systematic search of literature from internet databases and search engines in English. Articles will be screened in a two-stage process (title/abstract and full text) to evaluate whether they meet a list of eligibility criteria (e.g., presents species-level data, compares > 1 time period). Initial data coding and extraction will be completed by four reviewers and checked by a secondary reviewer from among our co-authors. We will perform a formal meta-analysis to document estimated effect size using the subset of available range-shift data expressed in distance per time (e.g., km/decade). We will also use multinomial logistic regression models to assess the probability that species are shifting in a direction that supports our hypotheses (i.e. towards higher latitudes, greater elevations, and deeper depths). We will account for study methodology as a potential source of variation.


Global change, Distribution shift, Species redistribution, Latitude, Elevation, Depth Warming, Vulnerability

Who's in the review team?

Madeleine A. Rubenstein
Sarah R. Weiskopf
Shawn L. Carter
Mitchell J. Eaton
Ciara Johnson
Abigail J. Lynch
Brian W. Miller
Toni Lyn Morelli
Mari Angel Rodriguez
Adam Terando
Laura M. Thompson

At what stage is the review?

Review in Progress

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