Use of the Köppen-Trewartha climate classification to evaluate climatic refugia in statistically derived ecoregions for the People’s Republic of China
Changes in climate as projected by state-of-the-art climate models are likely to result in novel combinations of climate and topo-edaphic factors that will have substantial impacts on the distribution and persistence of natural vegetation and animal species. We have used multivariate techniques to quantify some of these changes; the method employed was the Multivariate Spatio-Temporal Clustering (MSTC) algorithm. We used the MSTC to quantitatively define ecoregions for the People’s Republic of China for historical and projected future climates. Using the Köppen–Trewartha classification system we were able to quantify some of the temperature and precipitation relationships of the ecoregions. We then tested the hypothesis that impacts to environments will be lower for ecoregions that retain their approximate geographic locations. Our results showed that climate in 2050, as projected from anthropogenic forcings using the Hadley Centre HadCM3 general circulation model, were sufficient to create novel environmental conditions even where ecoregions remained spatially stable; cluster number was found to be of paramount importance in detecting novelty. Continental-scale analyses are generally able to locate potentially static ecoregions but they may be insufficient to define the position of those reserves at a grid cell-by-grid cell basis.