Climate and topography explain range sizes of terrestrial vertebrates

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  • Yiming Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Xianping Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Brody Sandel
  • David Blank, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Zetian Liu, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Xuan Liu, Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Shaofei Yan, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Identifying the factors that influence range sizes of species provides important insight into the distribution of biodiversity, and is crucial for predicting shifts in species ranges in response to climate change. Current climate (for example, climate variability and climate extremes), long-term climate change, evolutionary age, topographic heterogeneity, land area and species traits such as physiological thermal limits, dispersal ability, annual fecundity and body size have been shown to influence range size. Yet, few studies have examined the generality of each of these factors among different taxa, or have simultaneously evaluated the strength of relationships between range size and these factors at a global scale. We quantify contributions of these factors to range sizes of terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds and reptiles) at a global scale. We found that large-ranged species experience greater monthly extremes of maximum or minimum temperature within their ranges, or occur in areas with higher long-term climate velocity and lower topographic heterogeneity or lower precipitation seasonality. Flight ability, body mass and continent width are important only for particular taxa. Our results highlight the importance of climate and topographic context in driving range size variation. The results suggest that small-range species may be vulnerable to climate change and should be the focus of conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Climate Change
Pages (from-to)498-502
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2016

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