Predicting the future for species on the move
As our climate rapidly changes, a number of species are picking up and moving further towards the Earth’s poles, or to higher elevations. Many of Canada’s at-risk species are reaching their northern limits in southern Canada. These populations represent our best available sources of information on potential future shifts in animal and plant ranges.
Scientists have been unable to extensively predict which species will prove capable of migration, keeping pace with climate change; or whether those species unable to move will persist by adaptation. To forecast such range shifts, scientists must first understand why different species are distributed across landscapes the way they are.
To learn more about this, Dr. Amy L. Angert, Canada Research Chair in Conservation Ecology, is studying the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of species populations living at expanding and contracting range edges. She and her research team are investigating the importance of ecological factors, such as weather, dispersal and competition, at different range edges. They are also investigating how genetic variations—the raw material for evolutionary change—vary among populations across such ranges.
Angert’s work will lead to refined tools for modelling species distribution, providing key information for understanding the future of many animal and plant species. Ultimately, her research will help guide management and policy decisions concerning climate change adaptation and biodiversity preservation.