Global patterns of climate change impacts on desert bird communities

Liang Ma, Shannon R. Conradie, Christopher L. Crawford, Alexandra S. Gardner, Michael R. Kearney, Ilya M.D. Maclean, Andrew E. McKechnie, Chun Rong Mi, Rebecca A. Senior, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The world’s warm deserts are predicted to experience disproportionately large temperature increases due to climate change, yet the impacts on global desert biodiversity remain poorly understood. Because species in warm deserts live close to their physiological limits, additional warming may induce local extinctions. Here, we combine climate change projections with biophysical models and species distributions to predict physiological impacts of climate change on desert birds globally. Our results show heterogeneous impacts between and within warm deserts. Moreover, spatial patterns of physiological impacts do not simply mirror air temperature changes. Climate change refugia, defined as warm desert areas with high avian diversity and low predicted physiological impacts, are predicted to persist in varying extents in different desert realms. Only a small proportion (<20%) of refugia fall within existing protected areas. Our analysis highlights the need to increase protection of refugial areas within the world’s warm deserts to protect species from climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number211
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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