Climate change or land use dynamics: do we know what climate change indicators indicate?
Clavero Pineda, Miguel
Villero Pi, Daniel
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Different components of global change can have interacting effects on biodiversity and this may influence our ability to detect the specific consequences of climate change through biodiversity indicators. Here, we analyze whether climate change indicators can be affected by land use dynamics that are not directly determined by climate change. To this aim, we analyzed three community-level indicators of climate change impacts that are based on the optimal thermal environment and average latitude of the distribution of bird species present at local communities. We used multiple regression models to relate the variation in climate change indicators to: i) environmental temperature; and ii) three landscape gradients reflecting important current land use change processes (land abandonment, fire impacts and urbanization), all of them having forest areas at their positive extremes. We found that, with few exceptions, landscape gradients determined the figures of climate change indicators as strongly as temperature. Bird communities in forest habitats had colder-dwelling bird species with more northern distributions than farmland, burnt or urban areas. Our results show that land use changes can reverse, hide or exacerbate our perception of climate change impacts when measured through community-level climate change indicators. We stress the need of an explicit incorporation of the interactions between climate change and land use dynamics to understand what are current climate change indicators indicating and be able to isolate real climate change impacts.