Recently we blogged about CNHP’s Conservation Planning Team evaluating the potential effects of future climate conditions on Colorado’s species and ecosystems. An important part of this work is to look at projected future conditions in comparison with recent climate patterns. The graph below shows the projected direction of change in the current location of Colorado’s major terrestrial ecosystems as described by average annual temperature and precipitation.
|Projected seasonal average precipitation and mean temperature trajectories for current upland ecosystem ranges in Colorado summer by mid-century under a high radiative forcing scenario (RCP8.5).|
Of course average temperature and precipitation patterns are not the whole story. The interaction of climatic conditions with other abiotic factors (e.g. soils, disturbance), life-history traits of the component species (e.g. growth form, dispersal mechanisms), and past history shapes the observed distribution of ecosystems. Because many of the characteristic species of these ecosystems are long-lived, the time lag between the onset of new climate conditions and the response of the species to those conditions, adds another level of uncertainty to projections of future distribution. Climate changes over the past few decades are probably already facilitating a gradual modification of ecosystem extent and species composition that will become more apparent by mid-century.