Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 4 (2010)

Forecasting the poleward range expansion of an intertidal species driven by climate alterations

Raquel Xavier, Fernando P. Lima, Antonio M. Santos



Accurate distributional models can be used to reliably predict the response of organisms to climatic changes. Though such models have been extensively applied to terrestrial organisms, they have hardly ever been applied to the marine environment. Recent changes in the distribution of the marine gastropod Patella rustica (L.) were previously modelled with Classification and Regression Tree (CART) and the results revealed that increases in temperature were the major driver of those changes. However, the accuracy scores during the validation of the model were unsatisfactory, preventing its use for forecasting purposes. To fulfil this objective, in the present study a more robust method, Artificial Neural Network (ANN), was employed to produce a model suited to forecasting changes in the distribution of P. rustica. Results confirmed that the ANN model behaved better than the CART, and that it could be used for forecasting future distributional scenarios. The model forecasts that by the 2020s P. rustica is likely to expand its range at least 1000 km northwards. These results should be interpreted with caution considering the dispersal limitations of this species, but if such an expansion took place, major changes in the colonized ecosystems are expected due to the key role of limpets in intertidal communities.


Patella rustica; climate change; range expansion; distributional model; intertidal; Artificial Neural Networks

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