Strong discrepancies between local temperature mapping and interpolated climatic grids in tropical mountainous agricultural landscapes

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Bridging the gap between the predictions of coarse-scale climate models and the fine-scale climatic reality of species is a key issue of climate change biology research. While it is now well known that most organisms do not experience the climatic conditions recorded at weather stations, there is little information on the discrepancies between microclimates and global interpolated temperatures used in species distribution models, and their consequences for organisms' performance. To address this issue, we examined the fine-scale spatiotemporal heterogeneity in air, crop canopy and soil temperatures of agricultural landscapes in the Ecuadorian Andes and compared them to predictions of global interpolated climatic grids. Temperature time-series were measured in air, canopy and soil for 108 localities at three altitudes and analysed using Fourier transform. Discrepancies between local temperatures vs. global interpolated grids and their implications for pest performance were then mapped and analysed using GIS statistical toolbox. Our results showed that global interpolated predictions over-estimate by 77.5±10% and under-estimate by 82.1±12% local minimum and maximum air temperatures recorded in the studied grid. Additional modifications of local air temperatures were due to the thermal buffering of plant canopies (from -2.7°K during daytime to 1.3°K during night-time) and soils (from -4.9°K during daytime to 6.7°K during night-time) with a significant effect of crop phenology on the buffer effect. This discrepancies between interpolated and local temperatures strongly affected predictions of the performance of an ectothermic crop pest as interpolated temperatures predicted pest growth rates 2.3-4.3 times lower than those predicted by local temperatures. This study provides quantitative information on the limitation of coarse-scale climate data to capture the reality of the climatic environment experienced by living organisms. In highly heterogeneous region such as tropical mountains, caution should therefore be taken when using global models to infer local-scale biological processes. © 2014 Faye et al.




Faye, E., Herrera, M., Bellomo, L., Silvain, J. F., & Dangles, O. (2014). Strong discrepancies between local temperature mapping and interpolated climatic grids in tropical mountainous agricultural landscapes. PLoS ONE, 9(8).

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