Comparison of latitudinal and elevational range limits of North American plant species: exploring the role of climate in limiting range boundaries

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Title
Comparison of latitudinal and elevational range limits of North American plant species: exploring the role of climate in limiting range boundaries
Contributors
Bersoza Hernandez, Ada C. (creator)
Brown University. Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (research program)
Brown University. Vos Environmental Fellows (research program)
Sax, Dov (advisor)
Date Created
2014-08-07
Abstract
In the face of climate change, species that are affected have three options: evolve, shift their geographic distribution, or become extinct. We are interested in those species that are changing their range limits. Our main question is “to what extent do climate conditions limit species high-latitude or high-elevation boundaries?” The reason we’re interested in range limits is that by comparing the extent to which species high-latitude and high-altitude limits correspond with particular climatic variables, we can identify species that are limited by climate instead of other factors such as competition and dispersal ability. This will shed light on which species will be most impacted by climate change. We are focusing on woody plant species across North America. Species occurrence data will be downloaded from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF. The coordinates will then be plotted against a digital elevation model using GIS software and thus, a species’ latitudinal and elevational limits will be obtained. Finally, climate data will be added to compare temperature and other climatic variables at each limit. However it is important to evaluate the species occurrence data in order to make sure that it is properly sampled and representative of a species’ actual distribution. To validate GBIF data, each coordinate was verified and then plotted in ArcGIS to extract its elevation. The elevational range obtain was then compared to that reported in primary literature. This allows us to contextualize when GBIF data are likely to work. At the end of this project we expect our results will provide insight into which species, taxonomic groups, or particular environments are most sensitive to climate change and thus should take priority when developing conservation efforts.
Keywords
range boundaries
atitudinal limits
elevational limits
North America
plants

Citation

Bersoza Hernandez, Ada C., "Comparison of latitudinal and elevational range limits of North American plant species: exploring the role of climate in limiting range boundaries" (2014). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:381056/

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