Projected climate change at a regional level is expected to shift vegetation habitat distributions over the next century. For the sub-alpine species whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), warming temperatures may indirectly result in loss of suitable bioclimatic habitat, reducing its distribution within its historic range. This research focuses on understanding the patterns of spatiotemporal variability for future projected P.albicaulis suitable habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) through a bioclimatic envelope approach. Since intermodel variability from General Circulation Models (GCMs) lead to differing predictions regarding the magnitude and direction of modeled suitable habitat area, nine bias-corrected statistically down-scaled GCMs were utilized to understand the uncertainty associated with modeled projections. P.albicaulis was modeled using a Random Forests algorithm for the 1980-2010 climate period and showed strong presence/absence separations by summer maximum temperatures and springtime snowpack. Patterns of projected habitat change by the end of the century suggested a constant decrease in suitable climate area from the 2010 baseline for both Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) 8.5 and 4.5 climate forcing scenarios. Percent suitable climate area estimates ranged from 2-29% and 0.04-10% by 2099 for RCP 8.5 and 4.5 respectively. Habitat projections between GCMs displayed a decrease of variability over the 2010-2099 time period related to consistent warming above the 1910-2010 temperature normal after 2070 for all GCMs. A decreasing pattern of projected P.albicaulis suitable habitat area change was consistent across GCMs, despite strong differences in magnitude. Future ecological research in species distribution modeling should consider a full suite of GCM projections in the analysis to reduce extreme range contractions/expansions predictions. The results suggest that restoration strageties such as planting of seedlings and controlling competing vegetation may be necessary to maintain P.albicaulis in the GYA under the more extreme future climate scenarios.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)