Improvements in reports of species redistribution under climate change are required

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Science Advances  07 Apr 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 15, eabe1110
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe1110


Studies have documented climate change–induced shifts in species distributions but uncertainties associated with data and methods are typically unexplored. We reviewed 240 reports of climate-related species-range shifts and classified them based on three criteria. We ask whether observed distributional shifts are compared against random expectations, whether multicausal factors are examined on equal footing, and whether studies provide sufficient documentation to enable replication. We found that only ~12.1% of studies compare distributional shifts across multiple directions, ~1.6% distinguish observed patterns from random expectations, and ~19.66% examine multicausal factors. Last, ~75.5% of studies report sufficient data and results to allow replication. We show that despite gradual improvements over time, there is scope for raising standards in data and methods within reports of climate-change induced shifts in species distribution. Accurate reporting is important because policy responses depend on them. Flawed assessments can fuel criticism and divert scarce resources for biodiversity to competing priorities.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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