Scientists might be using a flawed strategy to predict how species will fare under climate change

By Mikayla Mace Kelley, University Communications
University of Arizona
December 18, 2023
Category: Carbon, Climate & Bioenergy
Region: United States, US West

For decades, scientists have used the space-for-time substitution to predict how a species will fare in climate change. But according to new research, that method might be producing results that are misleading or wrong. University of Arizona researchers found the method failed to accurately predict how ponderosa pine has responded to the last several decades of warming. This implies that other research relying on space-for-time substitution may not accurately reflect how species will respond to climate change over the next several decades. The team found that ponderosa pine trees grow at a faster rate at warmer locations. Under the space-for-time substitution paradigm, then, this suggests that as the climate warms at the cool edge of distribution, things should be getting better. But when the team used tree rings to assess response to changes in temperature, they found the trees were consistently negatively impacted by temperature variability.

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