Linking climate warming and land conversion to species’ range changes across Great Britain

Suggitt, A.J., Wheatley, C.J., Aucott, P. et al. | Nat Commun 14, 6759 (2023) | 2023 | Peer Reviewed | Systematic review |


Although increased temperatures are known to reinforce the effects of habitat destruction at local to landscape scales, evidence of their additive or interactive effects is limited, particularly over larger spatial extents and longer timescales. To address these deficiencies, we created a dataset of land-use changes over 75 years, documenting the loss of over half (>3000 km2) the semi-natural grassland of Great Britain. Pairing this dataset with climate change data, we tested for relationships to distribution changes in birds, butterflies, macromoths, and plants (n = 1192 species total). We show that individual or additive effects of climate warming and land conversion unambiguously increased persistence probability for 40% of species, and decreased it for 12%, and these effects were reflected in both range contractions and expansions. Interactive effects were relatively rare, being detected in less than 1 in 5 species, and their overall effect on extinction risk was often weak. Such individualistic responses emphasise the importance of including species-level information in policies targeting biodiversity and climate adaptation.