Large extents of intensive land use limit community reorganization during climate warming

Oliver Tom H.
Gillings Simon
Pearce‐Higgins James W
Brereton Tom M.
Crick H. Q. P.
Duffield S. J.
Morecroft M. D.
Roy D. B.

Climate change is increasingly altering the composition of ecological communities, in combination with other environmental pressures such as high-intensity land use. Pressures are expected to interact in their effects, but the extent to which intensive human land use constrains community responses to climate change is currently unclear. A generic indicator of climate change impact, the community temperature index (CTI), has previously been used to suggest that both bird and butterflies are successfully 'tracking' climate change. Here, we assessed community changes at over 600 English bird or butterfly monitoring sites over three decades and tested how the surrounding land has influenced these changes. We partitioned community changes into warm-and cold-associated assemblages and found that English bird communities have not reorganized successfully in response to climate change. CTI increases for birds are primarily attributable to the loss of cold-associated species, whilst for butterflies, warm-associated species have tended to increase. Importantly, the area of intensively managed land use around monitoring sites appears to influence these community changes, with large extents of intensively managed land limiting 'adaptive' community reorganization in response to climate change. Specifically, high-intensity land use appears to exacerbate declines in cold-adapted bird and butterfly species, and prevent increases in warm-associated birds. This has broad implications for managing landscapes to promote climate change adaptation.

Year of Publication
Global Change Biology
Number of Pages
Research themes
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