Achieving climate connectivity in a fragmented landscape

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2016
McGuire, Jenny L.; Lawler, Joshua J.; McRae, Brad H.; Nunez, Tristan A.; Theobald, David M.
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SourceWeb of Science
Volume / Issue113 / 26
Pages7195 - 7200
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DOI10.1073/pnas.1602817113
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Publication DateJUN 28 2016
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AbstractThe contiguous United States contains a disconnected patchwork of natural lands. This fragmentation by human activities limits speciesÍ 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. By analyzing fragmentation patterns across the contiguous United States, we demonstrate that only 41% of natural land area retains enough connectivity to allow plants and animals to maintain climatic parity as the climate warms. In the eastern United States, less than 2% of natural area is sufficiently connected. Introducing corridors to facilitate movement through human-dominated regions increases the percentage of climatically connected natural area to 65%, with the most impactful gains in low-elevation regions, particularly in the southeastern United States. These climate connectivity analyses allow ecologists and conservation practitioners to determine the most effective regions for increasing connectivity. More importantly, our findings demonstrate that increasing climate connectivity is critical for allowing species to track rapidly changing climates, reconfiguring habitats to promote access to suitable climates.
Created: 12/14/2017 10:29 AM (ET)
Modified: 12/14/2017 10:29 AM (ET)
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