Hey, Center for Biodiversity, Listen Up!
[SPPI Note: Likely one of the most notoriously unscientific groups is the Center for Biodiversity, which files reams of listings for species endangerment based on deeply flawed models, statistical manipulations and bald ignorance of the broader sciences. A multititute of papers in the literature attest to this:
A complete review of the literature can be found here.
Recent paper# 1
Sears, M.W., Raskin, E. and Angilletta Jr., M.J. 2011. The world is not flat: Defining relevant thermal landscapes in the context of climate change. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 666-675.
Climate alarmists have historically predicted catastrophic species extinctions based on the presumption that CO2-induced global warming will be so fast and furious that many species of plants and animals will not be able to migrate either poleward in latitude or upward in altitude rapidly enough to remain within the “climate envelope” to which they are accustomed.
In a study of this subject, Sears et al. (2011) analyzed how spatial heterogeneity can impact biological responses to thermal landscapes at scales that are more relevant to organisms than are the (much larger) scales implied by standard climate envelopes, which they did by examining the effects of topographic relief on the range of operative temperatures that are available for behavioral thermoregulation within various parts of an area described by a given climate envelope.
According to the three researchers, the results indicated that “empirical studies alone suggest that the operative temperatures of many organisms vary by as much as 10-20°C on a local scale, depending on vegetation, geology, and topography,” while noting that even this variation in abiotic factors “ignores thermoregulatory behaviors that many animals use to balance heat loads.” And through a set of simulations of these phenomena, they “demonstrate how variability in elevational topography can attenuate the effects of warming climates.” More specifically, they found that (1) “identical climates can produce very different microclimates at the spatial scales experienced by organisms,” that (2) “greater topographic relief should decrease selective pressure on thermal physiology for organisms that use behavior to avoid thermal extremes in heterogeneous environments,” citing Huey et al. (2003), and that (3) “topographic diversity should buffer the impacts of climate change by facilitating behavioral thermoregulation.”
Given such results, their analysis suggests, as Sears et al. describe it, that well-known relationships in biophysical ecology show that “no two organisms experience the same climate in the same way,” and that “changing climates do not always impact organisms negatively.” Therefore, they conclude that “when coupled with thermoregulatory behavior, variation in topographic features can mask the acute effect of climate change in many cases,” which renders the climate envelope approach to assessing species responses to climate change rather useless, if not even deceptive.
Huey, R.B., Hertz, P.E. and Sinervo, B. 2003. Behavioral drive versus behavioral inertia in evolution: a null model approach. American Naturalist 161: 357-366.
Recent Paper #2
Simpson, S.D., Jennings, S., Johnson, M.P., Blanchard, J.L., Schon, P.-J., Sims, D.W. and Genner, M.J. 2011. Continental shelf-wide response of a fish assemblage to rapid warming of the sea. Current Biology 21: 1565-1570.
Simpson et al. (2011) write that “marine ecosystems in the northeast Atlantic have warmed particularly rapidly, with mean sea temperatures in the North Sea and Celtic-Biscay Shelf regions increasing between 1982 and 2006 by 1.31°C and 0.72°C, respectively,” which is four times faster than the global average. And in light of these facts, they considered these regions and timeframe to be ideal for determining how real-world fish respond to real-world warming.
Simpson et al. say they “assessed the full impacts of warming on the commercially important European continental shelf fish assemblage using a data-driven Eulerian (grid-based) approach that accommodates spatial heterogeneity in ecological and environmental conditions.” This they did by analyzing “local associations of species abundance and community diversity with climatic variables, assessing trends in 172 cells from records of >100 million individuals sampled over 1.2 million km2 from 1980-2008,” rather than relying on macro-ecological analyses of the effects of climate change on marine fish assemblages (as is done with the climate envelope approach) that do not account for “constraints on distributional shifts due to population dependence on essential habitat, such as favored substrates, appropriate predator and prey fields, and close proximity to nursery grounds, all of which are often unknown and difficult to quantify.”
The seven scientists say they discovered “responses to warming in 72% of common species, with three times more species increasing in abundance than declining,” and they say that they also found these trends “reflected in international commercial landings,” where landings of nine species identified as declining in warm conditions fell by a half during the period of their study, whereas landings of 27 species identified as increasing in warm conditions rose by 2.5 times. In addition, they indicate that this “profound reorganization of the relative abundance of species in local communities occurred despite decadal stability in the presence-absence of species,” such as would have been suggested by the climate envelop approach on a larger spatial scale.
Simpson et al. state that their “finding of stability in presence-absence of species over decadal periods, but significant temperature-driven responses in local species abundance and assemblage composition, suggests that climate envelope models based on species presence-absence alone will not predict the most ecologically and economically significant effects of climate change.”