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Data from: Potential breeding distributions of U.S. birds predicted with both short-term variability and long-term average climate data

Citation

Bateman, Brooke Lee et al. (2016), Data from: Potential breeding distributions of U.S. birds predicted with both short-term variability and long-term average climate data, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5c84j

Abstract

Climate conditions, such as temperature or precipitation averaged over several decades strongly affect species distributions, as evidenced by experimental results and a plethora of models demonstrating statistical relations between species occurrences and long-term climate averages. However, long-term averages can conceal climate changes that have occurred in recent decades and may not capture actual species occurrence well because the distributions of species, especially at the edges of their range, are typically dynamic and may respond strongly to short-term climate variability. Our goal here was to test whether bird occurrence models can be predicted by either covariates based on short-term climate variability or on long-term climate averages. We parameterized species distribution models (SDMs) based on either short-term variability or long-term average climate covariates for 320 bird species in the conterminous U.S., and tested whether any life-history trait-based guilds were particularly sensitive to short-term conditions. Models including short-term climate variability performed well based on their cross-validated AUC score (0.85), as did models based on long-term climate averages (0.84). Similarly, both models performed well compared to independent presence/absence data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (independent AUC of 0.89 and 0.90, respectively). However, models based on short-term variability covariates more accurately classified true absences for most species (73% of true absences classified within the lowest quarter of environmental suitability versus 68%). In addition, they have the advantage that they can reveal the dynamic relationship between species and their environment because they capture the spatial fluctuations of species potential breeding distributions. With this information we can identify which species and guilds are sensitive to climate variability, identify sites of high conservation value where climate variability is low, and assess how species' potential distributions may have already shifted due recent climate change. However, long-term climate averages require less data and processing time and may be more readily available for some areas of interest. Where data on short-term climate variability are not available, long-term climate information is a sufficient predictor of species distributions in many cases. However, short-term climate variability data may provide information not captured with long-term climate data for use in SDMs.

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