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Increase in Quantity and Quality of Suitable Areas for Invasive Species as Climate Changes

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As climatically suitable range projections become increasingly used to assess distributions of species, we recommend systematic assessments of the quality of habitat in addition to the classical binary classification of habitat. We devised a method to assess occurrence probability, captured by a climatic suitability index, through which we could determine variations in the quality of potential habitat. This relative risk assessment circumvents the use of an arbitrary suitability threshold. We illustrated our method with 2 case studies on invasive ant species. We estimated invasion potential of the destroyer ant (Monomorium destructor) and the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) on a global scale currently and by 2080 with climate change. We found that 21.1% of the world's landmass currently has a suitable climate for the destroyer ant and 16% has a suitable climate for European fire ant. Our climatic suitability index showed that both ant species would benefit from climate change, but in different ways. The size of the potential distribution increased by 35.8% for the destroyer ant. Meanwhile, the total area of potential distribution remained the same for the European fire ant (>0.05%), but the level of climatic suitability within this range increased greatly and led to an improvement in habitat quality (i.e., of invasive species’ establishment likelihood). Either through quantity or quality of suitable areas, both invasive ant species are likely to increase the extent of their invasion in the future, following global climate change. Our results show that species may increase their range if either more areas become suitable or if the available areas present improved suitability. Studies in which an arbitrary suitability threshold was used may overlook changes in area quality within climatically suitable areas and as a result reach incorrect predictions.

Incremento de la Cantidad y Calidad de Áreas Idóneas para Especies Invasoras a Medida que Cambia el Clima
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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