Forecasting the Impact of Climate Change on Terrestrial Biodiversity and Protected Areas in the Pacific Northwest
Langdon, Jesse G. R.
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Protected areas are a fundamental component of many conservation strategies. They safeguard some of the best examples of unfragmented natural lansdcapes in many regions, provide important habitat for many rare and threatened species and communities, and serve as a refuge from a human-dominated world. As temperatures continue to rise and precipitation patterns shift due to anthropogenic climate change, vegetation systems and species communities are expected to undergo substantial changes. Protected area managers, confronted with a host of rapidly changing ecological conditions, can develop more effective climate adaptation strategies with an improved understanding of trends in these changes. In this study, I attempt to assess future ecological change by analyzing three impact measures. First, I determined a species turnover rate for the study area by modeling future changes in habitat suitability for 366 terrestrial vertebrate species. I then summarize future projected changes in temperature and precipitation, shifts in major vegetation systems, and species turnover for the study area. These measures were calculated for the entire study area, then summarized by protected areas. Similar geographic variations were found for all three measures, with areas in close proximity to the Pacific Coast exhibiting the most moderate changes, compared to increasingly greater changes projected along a longitudinal gradient toward the continental interior. Moderately strong correlations were found between vegetation change and species turnover, species turnover and longitude, and climate change and longitude, and climate change and elevation. The resulting spatial variations in these measures underscores the importance of developing appropriate climate adaptation strategies in response to disparate trends in future environmental change.
- Forestry