Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity

Daniel B. Botkin, Henrik Saxe, Miguel B. Araújo, Richard Betts, Richard H.W. Bradshaw, Tomas Cedhagen, Peter Chesson, Terry P. Dawson, Julie R. Etterson, Daniel P. Faith, Simon Ferrier, Antoine Guisan, Anja Skjoldborg Hansen, David W. Hilbert, Craig Loehle, Chris Margules, Mark New, Matthew J. Sobel, David R.B. Stockwell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

462 Scopus citations


The demand for accurate forecasting of the effects of global warming on biodiversity is growing, but current methods for forecasting have limitations. In this article, we compare and discuss the different uses of four forecasting methods: (1) models that consider species individually, (2) niche-theory models that group species by habitat (more specifically, by environmental conditions under which a species can persist or does persist), (3) general circulation models and coupled ocean-atmosphere-biosphere models, and (4) species-area curve models that consider all species or large aggregates of species. After outlining the different uses and limitations of these methods, we make eight primary suggestions for improving forecasts. We find that greater use of the fossil record and of modern genetic studies would improve forecasting methods. We note a Quaternary conundrum: While current empirical and theoretical ecological results suggest that many species could be at risk from global warming, during the recent ice ages surprisingly few species became extinct. The potential resolution of this conundrum gives insights into the requirements for more accurate and reliable forecasting. Our eight suggestions also point to constructive synergies in the solution to the different problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-236
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Biodiversity
  • Forecasting
  • Global warming
  • Modeling
  • Quaternary conundrum


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