Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 5–6, pp 771–779 | Cite as

Climatic niche breadth determines the response of bumblebees (Bombus spp.) to climate warming in mountain areas of the Northern Iberian Peninsula

  • José M. HerreraEmail author
  • Emilie F. Ploquin
  • Pierre Rasmont
  • José R. Obeso


Studies examining species range shifts in the face of climate change have consistently found that response patterns are complex and varied, suggesting that ecological traits might be affecting species response. However, knowledge of how the traits of a species determine its response to climate change is still poorly understood. Here we investigate the role of species-specific climate niche breadth in forecasting bumblebee (Bombus spp.) responses to regional climate warming in the Cantabrian Range (north-western Iberian Peninsula). Climate niche breadth was defined using known data for occurrences of specific species at their continental (i.e., European) scale of distribution. For each bumblebee species, climate niche breadth was found to be related to (1) the elevational range shifts of species between their historical (1988–1989) and recent (2007–2009) distribution and (2) the variation in the climatic conditions of the localities they inhabited (i.e., the local climate space) between both study periods. Our results show a strong relationship between climate niche breadth, particularly thermal niche breadth, and the response of bumblebee species to climate warming, but only when this response was determined as variations in local climate space. The main conclusions of our work are thus twofold. First, variations in the climatic conditions underlying range shifts are useful in making accurate assessments of the impact of climate change on species distributions. Second, climate niche breadth is a particularly informative ecological trait for forecasting variations in species responses to climate change.


Climate niche Climate-driven shifts Elevation Species traits Species distribution Specialist Warming 



We would like to thank Amalia Segura for helping with fieldwork. Javier Rodríguez-Pérez and Ainhoa Magrach provided helpful comments that greatly improved the quality of the manuscript. Ronnie Lendrum edited the English. Funding was provided by the Regional Government of Asturias through an FICYT Grant (BP08-047) to EFP and by the Spanish Government through the project CGL2009-11302 (MICCIN) to JRO. PR gathered the continental distribution data under the frame of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) Grant Agreement No 244090, STEP Project (Status and Trends of European Pollinators, During the process of publishing this work, JMH was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science through a ‘Juan de la Cierva’ postdoctoral fellowship (FPDI-2013-16335) (Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, Gobierno de España) and is currently supported by the Portuguese National Funding Agency for Science, Research and Technology (FCT) through contract reference IF/00001/2015.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The authors declare that they have complied with ethical standards.

Supplementary material

10841_2018_100_MOESM1_ESM.doc (3.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 3770 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología de Organismos y SistemasUnidad Mixta de Investigación en Biodiversidad (CSIC-UO-PA), Universidad de OviedoOviedoSpain
  2. 2.Institut des Biosciences, Laboratoire de ZoologieUniversité de MonsMonsBelgium
  3. 3.Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic ResourcesUniversity of ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  4. 4.NERC Centre for Ecology and HydrologyBiological Records CentreCrowmarsh GiffordUK

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