Dispersal behaviour, connectivity, and range shifts: a wicked problem with innovative solutions?

Veronica A. J. Doerr (1), Erik D. Doerr (2)

1 CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, veronica.doerr@csiro.au

2 CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, erik.doerr@csiro.au

Barriers to a species’ ability to shift its range tend to focus on the mismatch between dispersal distances and the velocity of climate change. Our research on dispersal behaviour of woodland birds suggests that dispersal behaviour may critically interact with distance, resulting in even greater limitations to successful range shifts than previously suspected.  For example, many species use foray-based search tactics and turn around if they encounter vacant habitat without other individuals to interact with.  However, a deeper understanding  of  the  behavioural  mechanisms  of  dispersal  and  range  shifts  may  also  hint  at  new, innovative solutions to climate adaptation. These range from minor adjustments to landscape management (like targeting spatial planning and connectivity to produce more dispersers) to more outside-the-box solutions (like deliberately stressing individuals to push more of them into the tail of the dispersal distance distribution).  While the more innovative solutions can seem confronting and may ultimately be deemed too risky, we show how an understanding of the behavioural mechanisms of change can and should be used to broaden the conversation about adaptation solutions.