Modeling predicts shifts of an intertidal crab population in response to warming

Climate induced shifts in population distributions are widely documented around the globe as a means of animals behaviorally responding to their physiological tolerance limits. The rocky intertidal shore is known for its highly thermally variable environment within small elevational gradients, driving its exploitation in global warming research. I created an individual-based simulation to test a rule-based size-dependent species distribution model of a well understood population of Petrolisthes cinctipes crabs inhabiting the rocky intertidal shore of Fort Ross State Historic Park, California, which was then implemented to forecast the future distribution under the effects of warming. The model predicts the population will respond by shifting their distribution lower in the intertidal zone. This local distribution shift could result in significant ecosystem-wide community alterations. The generated simulation could be applied to similar systems of less tractable organisms responding to biotic and abiotic variables.