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FNRM Researchers Publish Two Reports Questioning Predicted Range Shifts in Biodiversity

(December 9, 2010 - Thunder Bay, Ontario) Researchers in Lakehead University's Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Philippe Stankowski, PhD candidate, and Dr. William Parker, professor, and Philippe Stankowski's advisor, have worked to resolve some of the fundamental uncertainties underlying future predicted range shifts with respect to biodiversity.

One of the growing concerns over climate change and its possible consequences to biodiversity is reaching the public in the form of maps which indicate dramatic predicted shifts of tree species’ ranges, which may take place in the not-so-distant future. Some of the future range maps even imply mass extinctions of some native tree species over the next century.  The work of Stankowski and Parker questions whether these predictions are realistic, if the species will have to relocate to survive, and if so where?  Their findings were published this year in two separate reports in the Netherlands-based journal Ecological Modelling, and indicate that the predicted range shift maps which have been put forward require careful reevaluation.

The results of Stankowski and Parker’s first analysis indicate that different sets of species-specific climate variables were needed to accurately describe the species’ distributions. In contrast, previous predictions of species' future ranges have been made on a single generalized set of climate variables.

In their second analysis, results indicated that the climate dimensions of the ecological niche of willow species in Ontario varied qualitatively and quantitatively depending on which past time period was used. As a result, maps of predicted distributional change developed in different historical periods were generally different in both their direction and magnitude. This finding was true even for distribution maps based on overlapping historical time periods, when the predictor climate variables were the same.

Essentially, the findings imply that many of the recent reports concerning the threats to biodiversity posed by climate change need to be reconsidered. However, they also present an exciting opportunity, not just to refine the current modelling approaches of future range predictions, but also to learn more about the ecology of our individual plant species.

Both Stankowski and Parker's first and second analysis, entitled One Size does not Fit All, and A Stitch in Time is not Enough, respectively, can be viewed online.

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MEDIA: Philippe Stankowski and Dr. Parker are available for media interview from 10:30 a.m. - 12 noon today. For more information or to arrange interview times, please contact Heather Scott, Communications Officer, at 807-343-8177 or commun@lakeheadu.ca, or Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, at 807-343-8372 or eabaya@lakeheadu.ca.

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 8,280 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit www.lakeheadu.ca

Last updated December 09, 2010

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