What controls species’ ranges?

Geum radiatum niche model prediction

A long-standing, key issue relevant to many questions in ecology, conservation, and evolutionary biology revolves around understanding the controls over species’ distributions. Over 100 years ago C. Merriam Hart, the first president of the National Geographic Society, opined that temperature set broad-scale limits and precipitation finer-scale limits. Although our understanding has progressed much since then, we still have little knowledge about what determines range limits for most species on earth. We are keen to address this critical gap in our knowledge, and to do so, we are developing methods for assessing the efficacy of environmental and biotic drivers of species’ distributions.

Example publications:

Smith, A.B. and Santos, M.J.  Testing the ability of species distribution models to infer variable importance. 2020. Ecography 43:1801-1813. [open access]

Smith, A.B., Beever, E.A., Kessler, A.E., Johnston, A.N., Ray, C., Epps, C.W., Lanier, H.C., Klinger, R.C., Rodhouse, T.J., Varner, J., Perrine, J., Seglund, A., Hall, E., Galbreath, K., Anderson, C., Billman, P., Blatz, G., Brewer, J., Vardaro, J.C., Chalfoun, A.D., Collins, G., Craighead, A., Curlis, C., Daly, C., Doak, D.F., East, M., Edwards, M., Erb, L., Ernest, K.A., Fauver, B., Foresman, K., Goehring, K., Hagar, J., Hayes, C.L., Henry, P., Hersey, K., Hilty, S.L., Jacobson, J., Jeffress, M.R., Manning, T.E., Masching, A., Maxwell, B., McCollough, R., McFarland, C., Miskow, E., Morelli, T,L., Moyer-Horner, L., Mueller, M., Nugent, M., Pratt, B., Rasmussen-Flores, M., Rickman, T.H., Robison, H., Rodriguez, A., Rowe, K.M.C., Rowe, K.C., Russello, M.A., Saab, V., Schmidt, A., Stewart, J.A.E., Stuart, J.N., Svancara, L.K., Thompson, W., Timmins, J., Treinish, G., Waterhouse, M.D., Westover, M.K., Wilkening, J., and Yandow, L. 2019. Alternatives to genetic affinity as a context for within-species response to climate. Nature Climate Change 9:787-794. article | editorial highlight | cover | PBS NOVA | PHYS.ORG | SciGlow | The Scientist

Santos, M.J., Smith, A.B., Thorne, J.H., and Moritz, C.  2017.  The relative influence of change in habitat and climate on elevation range limits in small mammals in Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A.  Climate Change Responses 4:7. open access

Smith, A.B.  2013.  The relative influence of temperature, moisture, and their interaction on range limits of mammals over the past century.  Global Ecology and Biogeography 22:334-343. article