In an article in the journal Landscape Ecology Quantifying the spatial relationship between bird species’ distributions and landscape feature boundaries in southern Ontario, Canada researcher Aleksandra Polakowska and co-authors Marie-Josée Fortin and Andrew Couturier propose a framework for relating changes in species distribution to environmental changes in response to climate change.

In this research, they employ geographic boundary overlap using BioMedware’s BoundarySeer software to assess spatial relationships between landscape features and bird species boundaries. The study area covers 92,000 km2 in southern Ontario (Canada) and extends from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence biome to the southern Canadian Shield biome. Landcover composition was derived from Ontario Land Cover data (1991–1998; 7 types) and elevation data were derived from the Canada3D digital elevation model. Bird distributions were estimated using indicator kriging based on point counts obtained from the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas data (2001–2005; 60 species).

They found significant positive association and spatial overlap between delineated landscape feature boundaries and bird boundaries. The authors suggest that understanding what features of the landscape affect species distribution is critical to effectively implement conservation strategies. A boundary analysis framework could be used to identify boundary shifts in response to climate change and anticipate changes in species distributions.