Is the future already here? The impact of climate change on the distribution of the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius)

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 9:44am -- sellis
Title Is the future already here? The impact of climate change on the distribution of the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsArchis, J. N., Akcali C., Stuart B. L., Kikuchi D., and Chunco A. J.
Start Pagee4647
KeywordsiDigBio data use
AbstractAnthropogenic climate change is a significant global driver of species distribution change. Although many species have undergone range expansion at their poleward limits, data on several taxonomic groups are still lacking. A common method for studying range shifts is using species distribution models to evaluate current, and predict future, distributions. Notably, many sources of ‘current’ climate data used in species distribution modeling use the years 1950–2000 to calculate climatic averages. However, this does not account for recent (post 2000) climate change. This study examines the influence of climate change on the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius). Specifically, we: (1) identified the current range and suitable environment of M. fulvius in the Southeastern United States, (2) investigated the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of M. fulvius, and (3) evaluated the utility of future models in predicting recent (2001–2015) records. We used the species distribution modeling program Maxent and compared both current (1950–2000) and future (2050) climate conditions. Future climate models showed a shift in the distribution of suitable habitat across a significant portion of the range; however, results also suggest that much of the Southeastern United States will be outside the range of current conditions, suggesting that there may be no-analog environments in the future. Most strikingly, future models were more effective than the current models at predicting recent records, suggesting that range shifts may already be occurring. These results have implications for both M. fulvius and its Batesian mimics. More broadly, we recommend future Maxent studies consider using future climate data along with current data to better estimate the current distribution.