SICB 2018: Predicting Climate-Induced Distributional Shifts for Puerto Rican Anoles

Anna Thonis, a Master’s Student in the Lister Lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, used distributional projection models to predict future ranges of anoles in Puerto Rico. There are ten species of anoles in Puerto Rico, and all of them are predicted to be faced with range shifts in the coming years due to climate change, as Puerto Rico may be faced with both warming and drying out in the future.

Thonis used population occupancy data collected by Lister from 1976-2012 as an input for her models. Using climate models and open source software, Thonis projected anole populations for 2050 and 2070. Based on these models, there will be an average reduction of the most suitable of anole habitats of 29.5% by 2050, and 8 of 10 anole species in Puerto Rico face habitat reduction. In 2070, the models predict and increase in habitat reduction, with a 39.6% reduction in the most suitable habitat and 9 of 10 species of anole facing habitat reduction.

Though these models sound dismal for anoles, Thonis hopes that future work with distributional models can help inform conservation decisions as climate change processes. More detailed models may be able to inform decisions on where protected habitats for anoles should be placed.

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