Range limits and niche limits

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Science  20 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6288, pp. 950-951
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6288.950-d

Do the geographical range limits of species reflect the limits of their ecological niches, or are they determined more by limits on their dispersal? These questions have long bothered ecologists, and they matter in the context of shifting distributions in a changing climate. Lee-Yaw et al. synthesized cases of 40 species (mainly plants) experimentally transplanted beyond their normal range limits, and they compared the results with niche models of habitat suitability. They found that for three-quarters of the species, range limits matched their niche limits, suggesting that most species are not dispersal-limited. The authors note, however, that dispersal limitation is likely to assume greater importance as habitats become increasingly fragmented by human activity.

Ecol. Lett. 10.1111/ele.12604 (2016).

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