Projections for Ecologists
Climate Projections for Ecologists
Climate projections are essential for understanding ecological responses to climate change, and their use is now common in ecology. However, the lack of integration between ecology and climate science has restricted understanding of the available climate data and their appropriate use. We provide an overview of climate model outputs and issues that need to be considered when applying projections of future climate in ecological studies. We outline the strengths and weaknesses of available climate projections, the uncertainty associated with future projections at different spatial and temporal scales, the differences between available downscaling methods (dynamical, statistical downscaling and simple scaling of Global Circulation Model output), and the implications these have for ecological models. We describe some of the changes in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the new Representative Concentration Pathways. We highlight some of the challenges in using model projections in ecological studies and suggest how to effectively address them in ecological studies. A better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of available climate projections will improve their application in the study of ecological responses to climate change and enable more sophisticated analyses of biological questions.