Spatial scale affects novel and disappeared climate change projections in Alaska

Bailey D. Morrison, Katy Heath, Jonathan A. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The formation of novel and disappeared climates between the last glacial maximum (LGM) and the present is important to consider to understand the expansion and contraction of species niches and distributions, as well as the formation and loss of communities and ecological interactions over time. Our choice in climate data resolution has the potential to complicate predictions of the ecological impacts of climate change, since climate varies from local to global scales and this spatial variation is reflected in climate data. To address this issue, we downscaled LGM and modern (1975–2005) 30-year averaged climate data to 60-m resolution for the entire state of Alaska for 10 different climate variables, and then upsampled each variable to coarser resolutions (60 m to 12 km). We modeled the distributions of novel and disappeared climates to evaluate the locations and fractional area of novel and disappeared climates for each of our climate variables and resolutions. Generally, novel and disappeared climates were located in southern Alaska, although there were cases where some disappeared climates existed within coastal and interior Alaska. Climate resolution affected the fractional area of novel and disappeared climates in three patterns: As the spatial resolution of climate became coarser, the fractional area of novel and disappeared climates (a) increased, (b) decreased, or (c) had no explainable relationship. Overall, we found the use of coarser climate data increased the fractional area of novel and disappeared climates due to decreased environmental variability and removal of climate extremes. Our results reinforce the importance of downscaling coarse climate data and suggest that studies analyzing the effects of climate change on ecosystems may overestimate or underestimate their conclusions when utilizing coarse climate data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12026-12044
Number of pages19
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume9
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Keywords

  • Alaska
  • climate change
  • climate downscale
  • last glacial maximum
  • novel and disappeared climates
  • spatial resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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