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Drivers of change in the realised climatic niche of terrestrial mammals

Cite this dataset

Di Marco, Moreno; Pacifici, Michela; Maiorano, Luigi; Rondinini, Carlo (2021). Drivers of change in the realised climatic niche of terrestrial mammals [Dataset]. Dryad.


The breadth of a species’ climatic niche is an important ecological trait that allows adaptation to climate change, but human activities often reduce realised niche breadth by impacting species distributions. Some life-history traits, such as dispersal ability and reproductive speed, allow species to cope with both human impact and climate change. But how do these traits interact with human pressure to determine niche change? Here we investigate the patterns and drivers of change in the realised climatic niche of 258 terrestrial mammal species. Our goal is to disentangle the impacts of human land use, climate change, and life history. We quantified the past and present climatic niches of each species by considering past climatic conditions (Mid Holocene) within their pre-human impact distributions, and current climatic conditions within the current distributions. Depending on the difference between past and current niche, we defined four categories of change: “shrink”, “shift”, “stable”, and “expand”. We found over half of the species in our sample have undergone niche shrink, while only one in six retained a stable niche. Climate change and distribution change were the strongest correlates of species niche change, followed by biogeography, anthropogenic land use, and life-history traits. Factors that increased the probability of niche shrink included: overall climatic instability, reduction in distribution range, historical land use, large body mass, and long weaning age. Species with these characteristics might require interventions that facilitate natural dispersal or assisted colonisation to survive rapidly changing climates.


Climatic, Biological, and human-pressure variables measured for each species, under each climate scenario. All methods and primary data sources are described in the associated article.

Usage notes

Please refer to the readme file associated with the dataset.


H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Award: 793212