Red noise increases extinction risk during rapid climate change

Karen Mustin*, Calvin Dytham, Tim G. Benton, Justin M. J. Travis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: As the global climate is changing rapidly, there is a need to make conservation decisions to facilitate species' persistence under climate change. Models employed to make predictions regarding the impacts of climate change on species' distributions, and ultimately persistence, typically assume that interannual variability in environmental conditions is independent between years. However, the colour of environmental noise has been shown to affect extinction risk in populations occupying spatially static environments, and should therefore affect persistence during climate change. This study aims to investigate the importance of noise colour for extinction risk during climate-induced range shifts. Methods: We use a spatially explicit coupled map lattice with a latitudinal gradient in climatic suitability, together with time series of environmental noise, to simulate periods of directional climate change and investigate the effects of noise colour on extinction risk and range size. Results: Extinction risk increases with reddening of the environmental noise, and this effect is particularly pronounced over short time frames when climate change is rapid. Main conclusions: Given that management decisions are typically made over such short time frames, and the rapid rates of climate change currently being experienced, we highlight the importance of incorporating realistic time series of environmental noise into models used for conservation planning under climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-824
Number of pages10
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number7
Early online date17 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

KM was funded by a UKPopNet studentship. This collaboration was initiated at the workshop ‘Integrating spatially explicit statistical models and individual-based modelling using Bayesian statistics II’ organized by Dr Barbara Anderson. The authors are grateful to Mike Fowler and Lasse Ruokolainen for providing the methodology and R code to generate the coloured noise time series.


  • Climate change
  • Colour
  • Environmental noise
  • Extinction risk
  • Range shifting
  • Spatial population dynamics


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