The Wallace Initiative brings together experts in biodiversity (JCU, UEA), and climate change impacts and adaptation (UEA, JCU), with large datasets on the occurrence of biodiversity (GBIF) and the High Performance Computing Cluster and expertise at JCU to look at the potential impacts of climate change on global terrestrial biodiversity. To date the project has generated 1 petabyte of data. If that petabyte was music it could play continuously for 2000 years, if it was video it would fill 223,000 DVDs or more than 13 years of HD video, if text it would fill 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets. In other words it is a LOT of data on biodiversity and climate change.
The Wallace Initiative was originally designed to look at potential refugia for biodiversity under varying levels of climate change. This required first modelling the climate space of all of the individual species. So, we have information on potential refugia, potential areas that might see major changes in ecosystems (and the services they provide to people), changes in species richness, and changes to individual species climate space – allowing users to ask their own questions.
We have modelled approximately 135,000 terrestrial fungi, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects (including thousands of species of pollinators like bees and butterflies). These models have been created at a spatial scale of approximately 20km x 20km (10 arc minutes), looking at changes in global temperature from 1.5˚ to more than 6˚ C of warming. We used outputs from 21 climate models (to help assess uncertainty) and looked at a range of dispersal (shifting range) possibilities. The range shifts can be considered natural adaptation on the part of a species trying to follow its shifting climate.
The map section allows two maps to load simultaneously with a slider to show how the maps change depending on the question being asked. Some of the sorts of questions it can be used to look at (or used for teaching) are:
- Changes in a species climatic range between current and a future temperature
- Examining policy decisions of two different temperatures for a single species or a species group (e.g., birds, or a family of birds, or genus of birds (or other taxa)
- Examining climate change by using the provided information on climate policies and their impact on warming levels and the impacts on biodiversity
- Examining how natural adaptation (dispersal) can/or cannot offset the impacts of climate change
- Examining potential uncertainty in the modeled impacts by looking at the 10th, 50th (average) and 90th percentiles of change
- Examine how a predator and its prey, or a plant and its pollinator may stay linked to each other under differing levels of warming (by selecting different species for the left and right maps)
- Examine how a species might change relative to its key habitat components by looking at the species in the left map and its habitat (species richness) in the right
- Look at how disease vectors like some mosquitoes or ticks, or allergens like ragweed might shift with a shifting climate
- The ability to look at climate maps to at least visually see how the local temperature and precipitation are projected to change under the same temperature levels as species (this is annual average temperature, average maximum temperature in the hottest month, average minimum temperature in the coldest month, annual average precipitation, average precipitation in the wettest month, average precipitation in the driest month)
- The maps have a high degree of zoom, making it possible to zoom down to where a school might be, or a national park, etc.
Instructional videos, guides and lesson plans will be made available to assist people in using the website.