Understanding recent biogeographic responses to climate change is fundamental for improving our predictions of likely future responses and guiding conservation planning at both local and global scales. Studies of observed biogeographic responses to 20th century climate change have principally examined effects related to ubiquitous increases in temperature - collectively termed a warming fingerprint. Although the importance of changes in other aspects of climate - particularly precipitation and water availability - is widely acknowledged from a theoretical standpoint and supported by paleontological evidence, we lack a practical understanding of how these changes interact with temperature to drive biogeographic responses. Further complicating matters, differences in life history and ecological attributes may lead species to respond differently to the same changes in climate. Here, we examine whether recent biogeographic patterns across California are consistent with a warming fingerprint. We describe how various components of climate have changed regionally in California during the 20th century and review empirical evidence of biogeographic responses to these changes, particularly elevational range shifts. Many responses to climate change do not appear to be consistent with a warming fingerprint, with downslope shifts in elevation being as common as upslope shifts across a number of taxa and many demographic and community responses being inconsistent with upslope shifts. We identify a number of potential direct and indirect mechanisms for these responses, including the influence of aspects of climate change other than temperature (e.g., the shifting seasonal balance of energy and water availability), differences in each taxon's sensitivity to climate change, trophic interactions, and land-use change. Finally, we highlight the need to move beyond a warming fingerprint in studies of biogeographic responses by considering a more multifaceted view of climate, emphasizing local-scale effects, and including a priori knowledge of relevant natural history for the taxa and regions under study.
Keywords: California; biogeographic responses; climate change; climatic water balance; elevation; fingerprint; range shifts; temperature.
© 2014 The Authors. Global Change Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.