Usefulness of Species Traits in Predicting Range Shifts

Alba Estrada, Ignacio Morales-Castilla, Paul Caplat, Regan Early*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)
532 Downloads (Pure)


Information on the ecological traits of species might improve predictions of climate-driven range shifts. However, the usefulness of traits is usually assumed rather than quantified. Here, we present a framework to identify the most informative traits, based on four key range-shift processes: emigration of individuals or propagules away from the natal location; the distance a species can move; establishment of self-sustaining populations; and proliferation following establishment. We propose a framework that categorises traits according to their contribution to range-shift processes. We demonstrate how the framework enables the predictive value of traits to be evaluated empirically and how this categorisation can be used to better understand range-shift processes; we also illustrate how range-shift estimates can be improved. The ecological traits of species are increasingly used to inform predictions of climate-driven range shifts. Traits utilised should correspond to range-shift processes: emigration, movement, establishment, and proliferation. We categorise traits according to the information that they offer for each process.The most informative traits can be informed by biogeographical and demographic evidence bases: species range sizes, range filling, recent range shifts, population fluctuations, and success following naturalisation.Movement traits are often used in range-shift studies, although their importance is not universally supported. Ecological generalisation, persistence in unfavourable conditions, reproductive strategy, and intraspecific competitive ability should be considered for inclusion in range-shift evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-203
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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