Integrating Global Species Distributions, Remote Sensing Information and Climate Station Data to Assess Recent Biodiversity Response to Climate Change

Project Description
Global insights into the magnitude of the biotic response to climatic change are desperately needed. It is therefore imperative to make full use of all available biodiversity distribution data over the broadest possible spatial and temporal extents. Earlier efforts at linking climate variability and changes to biological responses suffer from a lack of spatially and temporally consistent environmental data layers. The proposed project is able to build on existing collaborative efforts and initiatives to address this need. Specifically, the project has four objectives: 1) Layer development. We will apply TOPS to produce global biophysical data layers derived from MODIS, Landsat, and observations from the global network of surface meteorological stations. In addition, we will use a novel approach to fuse MODIS data and climate station information to develop global layers of precipitation and temperature at a monthly 1km resolution, extending from 1971 to 2010. The fusion of spatially continuous satellite data and meteorological station data, as opposed to statistical interpolation techniques alone, will yield layers that allow more rigorous change assessment and species distribution modeling, especially in areas where biodiversity is the highest (e.g. the tropics). For 3-4 periods we will also derive 10-class continuous land cover dataset at a 1km resolution from a fusion of Landsat and MODIS for land cover change assessment. 2) Remote-sensing data based species distribution modeling. First we will use the remotely sensed layers developed in Objective 1 to provide temporally precise environmental annotations to biodiversity point occurrence data (focus: terrestrial vertebrates) made available in large quantities through services such as GBIF and VertNet. These annotated records can then be used to model species ecological niches and distributions using well established methods. We will compare the relative performance of satellite data to fused layers and to interpolated layers for successfully capturing species distributions. 3) Changes in species geographic and environmental distributions 1971-2010. After selecting and quality-controlling species with sufficient data in GBIF/VertNet, we will perform a geographic range and environmental niche assessment for > 1000 focal species drawn from many regions of the world. We will determine how these species’ niches and ranges have varied in relation to climatic changes over two 20-year time periods (1971-1990 and 1991-2010) using the monthly 1km fused data layers produced in Objective 1. The final out will be an assessment of the magnitude, geographic and taxonomic variation in species responses to recent climate change. 4) Change in environment and focal species occurrences in reserves for 1971-2010. For a global selection of protected areas and all SIGEO sites we will first assess the magnitude of observed climatic changes within these reserve utilizing new remote sense layers. Second, we will compare changes in the distribution of focal species predicted to occur in those reserves between the two twenty year time periods to create a scorecard showing climatic impacts on these areas. The proposed project offers tremendous synergies with existing global biodiversity efforts and will add a vital environmental change and remote sensing dimension to them, thus strongly advancing the contribution of NASA to the biodiversity community. Its goals are strongly aligned with the high-priority research tasks of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). The project outcomes of production, analysis, and distribution of global environmental data layers, enriched biodiversity information, probabilistic reserve species lists and biological change assessments will improve scientific knowledge and facilitate natural resource management in multiple significant ways. All products and metadata will be freely distributed in interoperable formats. Project PI: Walter Jetz/Yale University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Yale University 165 Prospect Street New Haven, CT 06520-8106, USA Phone: (203)-432-7540  Fax: (203) 432-5176 Email:
Project Administrator(s):
Cristina Milesi


Cristina Milesi