Does microclimate change move species?

With 200 or so we came together, here in the scorching heat and relentless urban expansion of southwest Florida, to talk about ‘species on the move’.

How an unfortunately large part of southwest Florida seems to look nowadays. Imagine the extreme microclimates in these non-habitats!

Global change is pushing species from all sides, forcing them out of their traditional ranges into new ones. With ‘SOTM’ already at its third edition, this issue has only become more urgent. Species range shifts are picking up speed, increasingly moving into uncharted territory, and causing a complicated reshuffling of biodiversity. Yet there is something intriguing about these species range shifts: there are only very few that are tracking climate change as predicted. Many terrestrial species are lagging behind climate change, or even moving in unexpected directions.

Corkscrew swamps and marshland, original Floridan wetlands

It is in this context that I’ll be giving a keynote lecture on Friday on the role of microclimate in the matter, as it seems to be that microclimatic heterogeneity could be taking away a large part of the need for species range shifts: thanks to microclimate, species often have to move only a few kilometers to find the climate conditions they are looking for.

However, these microclimates are also warming! Problem is, we don’t know yet how fast. My work focuses on getting that question answered: how fast is microclimate changing, and how can we best slow down that changing climate?

Forests buffer microclimate. Question is, will they also be able to buffer microclimate change? Strangling fig on a cypress tree in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

For this, we need lots of data! The SoilTemp database is that source of data, and we just launched a massive new call for data. So, if you have microclimate data, consider submitting it to our database! If you’re at the conference and have questions about SoilTemp, data submission, or microclimate in general, I’m organizing an informal session during the coffee break on Friday, at 10h00, in Calusa B!

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