Corridors as Adaptation to Climate Change
This effort is part of a non-energy sector collaborative project for California’s 4th Climate Change Assessment. The premise is that preparing landscapes for climate change calls for the best available science; and specifically identifying the best scientific approaches to landscape connectivity planning will improve climate change resilience. Equally important, effective strategies that managers and policy makers can adopt are needed to establish and protect connectivity, despite the uncertainty of ecosystem responses to climate change.
The activities included literature reviews, interviews with practitioners, online seminars, and a workshop to provide information that can be used to inform future approaches to connectivity analysis, planning, and implementation. Key results from this effort are below.
Publications from this research include:
Making habitat connectivity a reality. Conservation Biology. Online June 2018 by KEELEY, A. T., BASSON, G. , CAMERON, D. R., HELLER, N. E., HUBER, P. R., SCHLOSS, C. A., THORNE, J. H. and MERENLENDER, A. M. 2018
New concepts, models, and assessments of climate-wise connectivity. Environmental Research Letters 13 073002 by KEELEY, A., ACKERLY, D., CAMERON, D.R., HELLER, N., HUBER, P., SCHLOSS, C., THORNE, J., and MERENLENDER, A. 2018
Investigators: Adina Merenlender, David Ackerly & Annika Keeley (UC Berkeley); Patrick Huber & Jim Thorne (UC Davis); Dick Cameron & Carrie Schloss (The Nature Conservancy); Lee Hannah (Conservation International); Nicole Heller (Peninsula Open Space Trust); and Sam Veloz (Point Blue). Draft figure from The Nature Conservancy
New Concepts, Models, and Assessment of Climate-wise Connectivity
- Climate-wise connectivity focuses on maintaining and restoring resilient landscapes to facilitate species movement required for future range shifts and is an emerging area of conservation science.
- A systematic review of the literature on climate-wise connectivity yielded 116 relevant papers from 1996-2017, with most of the focus on modeling approaches for land conservation planning covering 13 different design objectives -- evenly split between focal species approaches and purely structural connectivity which relies on land use and land cover information.
- Focal-species based approaches either spatially link current to future habitat, or aim to find contiguous areas that, taking species dispersal ability into account, will support species persistence through time.
- Structural connectivity, thought to accommodate most species, is designed based on different concepts, including focusing on areas with minimal human influence, maximizing microclimate diversity, following temperature gradients, and connecting climate refugia.
- Studies focused on assessing connectivity at the leading edge of a species’ distribution (29 papers) were also prevalent with the following take home points:
- High levels of landscape fragmentation can completely inhibit a species’ migration capacity.
- Increasing the amount of habitat throughout the landscape is one of the most effective strategies to help species adapt to climate change.
- Adding corridors between natural or protected areas can be an effective strategy to facilitate range expansion.
- Corridors that cover large areas, and have high elevation gradients benefit the greatest number of species.
- Landscapes containing large protected areas connected through linkages, or stepping stones embedded in a permeable matrix will promote population persistence and facilitate range expansion at the leading edge of the greatest number of species.
- Research is needed that
- compares the different approaches to designing climate-wise connectivity,
- addresses how wide climate-wise corridors need to be to fulfill their function for many different species,
- explores the effectiveness of different management techniques related to diversifying the matrix and improving permeability for facilitating range shifts, and
- quantifies the impact of natural and anthropogenic barriers on possible range shifts.
Implementing corridors on the ground
- There is an urgent need to speed up the rate of corridor project implementation because the climate is changing rapidly and habitat and fragmentation continues to threaten species ability to adapt.
- There is a limited amount of published information on corridor implementation; so, a workshop and interviews with conservation practitioners were conducted throughout California to explore challenges and opportunities to implementing conservation corridors – all resulting in framework to guide on-the-ground connectivity implementation.
- Solid scientific data, especially animal movement paths, camera trap data, and roadkill surveys, in combination with connectivity models are important for siting and justifying connectivity projects.
- Opportunities to achieve success include
- a common vision of connected landscapes,
- accounting for the multiple benefits of corridors,
- partnerships between stakeholders,
- close collaboration with scientists,
- communication among partners and with the public, and
- laws and regulations targeting habitat connectivity to guide resource agencies, and
- incentive programs for private landowners.
- California should
- advance policies and funding mechanisms aimed at increasing connectivity conservation,
- integrate habitat connectivity objectives into local land use planning, and
- develop incentive programs to increase private landowner participation.