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Friday, August 19, 2011

Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming, by I-Ching Chen et al., Science, 333(6045) (2011)

Science 19 August 2011: 
Vol. 333 no. 6045 pp. 1024-1026 
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206432

Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming

  1. I-Ching Chen1,2
  2. Jane K. Hill1
  3. Ralf Ohlemüller3
  4. David B. Roy4, and 
  5. Chris D. Thomas1,*
+Author Affiliations
  1. 1Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK.
  2. 2Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, 128 Academia Road, Section 2, Nankang Taipei 115, Taiwan.
  3. 3School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.
  4. 4Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK.
  1. *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:


The distributions of many terrestrial organisms are currently shifting in latitude or elevation in response to changing climate. Using a meta-analysis, we estimated that the distributions of species have recently shifted to higher elevations at a median rate of 11.0 meters per decade, and to higher latitudes at a median rate of 16.9 kilometers per decade. These rates are approximately two and three times faster than previously reported. The distances moved by species are greatest in studies showing the highest levels of warming, with average latitudinal shifts being generally sufficient to track temperature changes. However, individual species vary greatly in their rates of change, suggesting that the range shift of each species depends on multiple internal species traits and external drivers of change. Rapid average shifts derive from a wide diversity of responses by individual species.
  • Received for publication 1 April 2011.
  • Accepted for publication 6 July 2011.

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