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Habitat Connectivity with Shifting Climate

June 14, 2016

A June 2016 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (“Achieving climate connectivity in a fragmented landscape”, McGuire, et al) reports on new methods that ecologists can use to determine the most effective regions for habitat connectivity.

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Image: Mojave Desert Tortoise
Mojave Desert Tortoise found in Piute Valley in Clark County, Nevada, in2005

The particular focus of this reasearch is climate connectivity, “…the spatial configuration of natural lands allows species to track their current climatic conditions during projected climate change.”

This research used PAD-US Gap Status Codes (biodiversity protection levels) to define “natural lands” which were then used to assess habitat corridors in relation to climate change in landscapes. By examining these climate change-rated corridors in relation to protected lands, researchers and policy makers can better focus conservation resources to protected lands that fill in this corridor pattern.

The report’s summary states:

“The contiguous United States contains a disconnected patchwork of natural lands. This fragmentation by human activities limits species’ ability to track suitable climates as they rapidly shift. However, most models that project species movement needs have not examined where fragmentation will limit those movements. Here, we quantify climate connectivity, the capacity of landscape configuration to allow species movement in the face of dynamically shifting climate. Using this metric, we assess to what extent habitat fragmentation will limit species movements in response to climate change. We then evaluate how creating corridors to promote climate connectivity could potentially mitigate these restrictions, and we assess where strategies to increase connectivity will be most beneficial."