Global environmental changes are driving biodiversity loss at unprecedented rates constituting a major threat to both human welfare and ecological stability. This realization has led to a growing interest in forecasting biological responses from local to global scales and from genes to ecosystems services. Despite unprecedented knowledge about natural systems it is not yet possible to make accurate predictions due to our incomplete understanding of how biological systems function and interact with physical and socioeconomic factors. Anthropogenic climate change and its realized and potential socio-environmental impacts and feedbacks represent the kind of large‐scale complex phenomena for which the integrative broad‐scale view of biogeography is especially useful. In this proposal, we are making the case for an “IBS off-year” that focus on the role of Biogeography in addressing the challenges associated with predicting future responses to climate change. We have tentatively proposed for main themes that reflect the past, present and future effects of climate change the distribution of life on Earth:
Theme I – “The past”: Our ability to quantify the impacts of climate change is greatly determined by our understanding of natural variability on timescales that go far beyond those of anthropogenic influences on climate. This can be achieved by “looking into the past” using global-scale paleo-climatic reconstructions over the past few centuries to millennia. This theme will showcase the state-of-art research in using reconstructions of ancient distributions and climates to better understand current and future changes.
Theme II – “Detecting and describing patterns”. The increasing need to understand the consequences of global environmental change at large-scales has prompted a decade of studies on the statistical relationships between organisms and their environment. These “macroecological” approaches have now expanded from simply describing classical biogeographical patterns to focus on global environmental issues.
Theme III – “From patterns to mechanisms”. There is an increased focus on the development of a more mechanistic understanding of the patterns of distribution of species across the globe. This theme will showcase innovative projects aimed at inferring the key mechanisms underlying major biogeographical patterns (e.g. altitudinal, latitudinal) which may include studies from state-of-art mechanistic modeling to large-scale experimental programmes across major biogeographical gradients.
Theme IV – “Looking into the future”. The final theme will highlight studies that integrate biogeographical approaches to forecasting changes in species distribution as a function of future climate change. This theme will try to showcase the development and application of sophisticated modeling approaches that combine ecology, physical geography, and phylogenetics.
Ultimately, with this IBS Special Meeting “Climate Change Biogeography” we aim to host a multidisciplinary discussion arena that brings together empiricists, theoreticians and experimentalists from around the world.