The new research uses data from fossilized pollen trapped in cores of sediments to simulate changes in plant distribution that have occurred over the past 21,000 years across the eastern parts of North America.
The researchers follow the assumption that climate influences species distribution in space and through time in the same way. In this respect, the hypothesis of the study is that the predictions that are made based on spatial data, should be the same as these based on temporal data.
The models, which used fossil data, explained 72% of the variation projected by the models based on temporal information. According to the scientists, the remaining variation is due to factors, which have not been included in the simplified models that they used.
The authors are convinced that although their assumption should still be tested further, the initial findings can provide ecologists with accurate predictions for ecosystems’ behaviour in areas where collecting temporal data might not always be possible.