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Lineage-level distribution models lead to more realistic climate change predictions for a threatened crayfish


Zhang, Zhixin et al. (2021), Lineage-level distribution models lead to more realistic climate change predictions for a threatened crayfish, Dryad, Dataset,


Aim: As climate change presents a major threat to biodiversity in the next decades, it is critical to assess its impact on species habitat suitability to inform biodiversity conservation. Species distribution models (SDMs) are a widely used tool to assess climate change impacts on species’ geographical distributions. As the term suggests, the species-level is the most commonly used taxonomic unit in SDMs. However, recently it has been demonstrated that SDMs considering taxonomic resolution below (or above) the species-level can make more reliable predictions of biodiversity change when different populations exhibit local adaptation. Here, we tested this idea using the Japanese crayfish (Cambaroides japonicus), a threatened species encompassing two geographically structured and phylogenetically distinct genetic lineages.

Location: Northern Japan.

Methods: We first estimated niche differentiation between the two lineages of C. japonicus using n-dimensional hypervolumes, then made climate change predictions of habitat suitability using SDMs constructed at two phylogenetic levels: species and intraspecific lineage.

Results: Our results showed only intermediate niche overlap, demonstrating measurable niche differences between the two lineages. The species-level SDM made future predictions that predicted much broader and severe impacts of climate change. However, the lineage-level SDMs led to reduced climate change impacts overall, and also suggested that the eastern lineage may be more resilient to climate change than the western one.

Main conclusions: The two lineages of C. japonicus occupy different niche spaces. Compared with lineage-level models, species-level models can overestimate climate change impacts. These results not only have important implications for designing future conservation strategies for this threatened species, but also highlight the need for incorporating genetic information into SDMs to obtain realistic predictions of biodiversity change.


We developed Maxent models for Japanese crayfish Cambaroides japonicus. During model development, we tuned Maxent with different combinations of feature classes and regularization multipliers using the R package ENMeval 1.9.0.

Usage Notes

Users should use their own species distribution data and environmental layers when running this R scripts. For more details, please refer to the R package ENMeval.


Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Award: 18K05780

The European Commission through Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) individual fellowships, Award: 882221

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University