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Examining the Responses of Species to Climate Change: Will Wildlife Face Biological Thresholds?

Examining the Mechanisms of Species Responses to Climate Change: Are There Biological Thresholds? (Award Title)
Principal Investigator
Curt Griffin


Start Date
End Date
Release Date


Historical and projected climate data point toward significant changes in the future for the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. These changes will include impacts to many species (like birds, fish, and mammals), ecosystems (like forests), and natural resources (like water) that humans appreciate and rely on. In order to prepare for these changes, land and resource managers need to be able to predict how species will respond, what specific mechanisms are driving these changes, and what thresholds wildlife species may soon be pushed across. Crossing these thresholds could lead to rapid change or decline in the health of a wildlife population. In response to this need, a team of researchers is working to identify the primary drivers (climate [...]

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“Mount Mansfield, Vermont - Credit: Alan Cressler”
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Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueClimate change-driven shifts in distribution and abundance have been documented in many species. However, in order to better predict species responses, managers are seeking to understand the mechanisms that are driving these changes, including any thresholds that might soon be crossed. Leveraging the research that has already been supported by the Northeast Climate Science Center and its partners, this project proposes to use the latest modeling techniques combined with robust field data to examine the impact of specific climate variables, land use change, and species interactions on the future distribution and abundance of species of conservation concern. Moreover, this project will document biological thresholds related to climate variability and change for critical species in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. Specifically, our objectives are to identify the primary drivers (climate change vs. urban growth) of species distribution changes in the Northeast; examine the nature of species landscape capability change over time to identify potential thresholds; determine how changing temperatures and snowpack characteristics will drive species interactions; determine the sensitivity of tree and bird responses to the magnitude, variability, periodicity, and seasonality of temperature and precipitation under climate change in the eastern U.S.; and develop projections based on discrete climate triggers that have been linked to known biological thresholds; and identify how discrete climate triggers such as extreme events will correlate with known biological thresholds. Major outcomes will include 1) refining the understanding of the mechanisms that drive projected changes in the distribution of vulnerable wildlife populations; and 2) improving how these results are conveyed to stakeholders by identifying understandable responses in the form of thresholds.

Budget Extension

typeAward Type
valueCooperative Agreement
typeAward Number

Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 58ea018e-3215-47ca-b4d4-6d00d64a5175
StampID NCCWSC NE16-GC0624

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