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Projected climatic changes lead to biome changes in areas of previously constant biome

Huntley, Brian; Allen, Judy R.M.; Forrest, Matthew; Hickler, Thomas; Ohlemüller, Ralf; Singarayer, Joy S.; Valdes, Paul J.; Williams, Jack

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Brian Huntley

Matthew Forrest

Thomas Hickler

Ralf Ohlemüller

Joy S. Singarayer

Paul J. Valdes

Jack Williams


Aim Recent studies in southern Africa identified past biome stability as an important predictor of biodiversity. We aimed to assess the extent to which past biome stability predicts present global biodiversity patterns, and the extent to which projected climatic changes may lead to eventual biome changes in areas with constant past biome. Location Global. Taxon Spermatophyta; terrestrial vertebrates. Methods Biome constancy was assessed and mapped using results from 89 dynamic global vegetation model simulations, driven by outputs of palaeoclimate experiments spanning the past 140 ka. We tested the hypothesis that terrestrial vertebrate diversity is predicted by biome constancy. We also simulated potential future vegetation, and hence potential future biome patterns, and quantified and mapped the extent of projected eventual future biome change in areas of past constant biome. Results Approximately 11% of global ice-free land had a constant biome since 140 ka. Apart from areas of constant Desert, many areas with constant biome support high species diversity. All terrestrial vertebrate groups show a strong positive relationship between biome constancy and vertebrate diversity in areas of greater diversity, but no relationship in less diverse areas. Climatic change projected by 2100 commits 46%–66% of global ice-free land, and 34%–52% of areas of past constant biome (excluding areas of constant Desert) to eventual biome change. Main conclusions Past biome stability strongly predicts vertebrate diversity in areas of higher diversity. Future climatic changes will lead to biome changes in many areas of past constant biome, with profound implications for biodiversity conservation. Some projected biome changes will result in substantial reductions in biospheric carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Using global biome patterns inferred from simulations made using the LPJ-GUESS dynamic global vegetation model, we show that a substantial fraction of areas that are simulated to have supported the same biome throughout the last glacial-interglacial cycle are projected to experience biome change as a consequence of 21st century climatic changes. We further show that, with the exception of some desert areas, areas of the highest past biome constancy correspond to areas of the highest terrestrial vertebrate diversity. As a result, the projected biome changes are likely to have disproportionately large negative impacts upon global biodiversity.


Huntley, B., Allen, J. R., Forrest, M., Hickler, T., Ohlemüller, R., Singarayer, J. S., …Williams, J. (2021). Projected climatic changes lead to biome changes in areas of previously constant biome. Journal of Biogeography, 48(10), 2418-2428.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 29, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 16, 2021
Publication Date 2021-10
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 2, 2021
Journal Journal of Biogeography
Print ISSN 0305-0270
Electronic ISSN 1365-2699
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 10
Pages 2418-2428


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (5.2 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2021 The Authors. Journal of Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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