We’re identifying the potential impacts of climate change on Alberta’s species and ecosystems in a variety of ways. Predicting the consequences of climate change for our biodiversity is the first step towards integrating climate change into planning and decision-making in the province.
Not all of Alberta’s species will experience climate change to the same degree, and not all are able to adapt equally well to the predicted changes. The challenge is to understand better which species may be most affected by climate change, either negatively or positively. We have completed the first-ever overview of the relative vulnerability of Alberta’s native species to climate change. This assessment combines information on the predicted exposure of each species to climate change within its current range, and on the sensitivity of each species to that change.
You can explore the climate change vulnerability of species of interest in our database of assessments. These assessments can be used as a starting point for more detailed consideration of species-specific climate risks.
The distributions of many species in Alberta depend, at least in part, on climate. Using associations between species observations and environmental variables like current climate, terrain, and land cover – called species distribution models – we have created predictive maps of species occurrence or abundance for a wide variety of species for both current and projected future climate conditions in the province.
These predictive maps can support a better understanding of the vulnerability of individual species to climate change and can be used to identify regions that are likely to remain suitable for them as climate change progresses. By combining maps for many species, we can learn more about how the diversity of species in Alberta may respond to climate change. These maps, and the models used to create them, can also be used to inform land use and conservation planning.
Boreal songbirds are likely to shift their distributions northward and upslope in response to rapid climate change over the next century. This map gallery contains detailed projections of distribution and density for 80 boreal-breeding songbirds based on current and projected future climate, current land use, and topography. These maps were produced in collaboration with the Boreal Avian Modelling project and are hosted by DataBasin.
The Alberta Species Conservation Atlas, hosted by the Applied Conservation Ecology Lab at the University of Alberta, will contain predictive maps of the distribution and potential habitat of the province’s rare species under current and projected future climates. Check back soon for more details.
The distribution of Alberta’s regional ecosystems, such as the Grassland, Parkland and Boreal, is strongly linked to climate factors like temperature, growing season length, and moisture balance. Because of these close connections, the distribution of these ecosystems has responded to past changes in climate, and will respond to future climate change as well. We have developed detailed projections of how Alberta’s ecosystems, defined by Alberta’s Natural Subregions, are likely to respond to climate change over the next hundred years.
A major contributor to the responses of ecosystem responses to climate change is how changes in ecological processes like fire and vegetation regeneration will lead to ecosystem transitions; for example, from the mixedwood forests of the Boreal region to the open checkerboard of aspen stands and grasslands typical of the Parkland region.
Climate change is predicted to favour invasion of ecosystems by non-native species. These species can have big impacts on the health of native ecosystems; in native grasslands for example, non-native plants can impact such things as nutrient cycling and habitat for species at risk. We have demonstrated a method of considering invasive plant risks for 16 potential invasive plant threats to Alberta by combining species distribution models with invasiveness risk assessments.
Presence-only datasets represent an important source of information on species’ distributions, but they are often spatially biased. This paper demonstrates a new approach of accounting for effort bias in species distribution modelling.
Projected changes in the distribution and abundance of 84 Alberta-breeding songbirds in response to projected changes in climate, revealing the potential for dramatic northward shifts in suitable climates many of these species over the next century.
Understanding the uncertainties associated with future projections of species distribution and abundance.