The Future of Southern Periphery Canada Lynx (<i>Lynx canadensis</i>): Habitat Suitability Projections for Lynx in the Washington-British Columbia Transboundary Region
Robbins, Tessia O
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The Canada lynx (<i>Lynx canadensis</i>) is a medium-sized cat that preys primarily on snowshoe hares (<i>Lepus americanus</i>). As a species threatened in the contiguous U.S. that is dependent on climate-sensitive environmental conditions, lynx are vulnerable to climate change at southern range peripheries like those in Washington State. Present uncertainties limiting a clearer understanding of possible outcomes under climate change for lynx populations in the Washington-British Columbia (BC) transboundary region include knowledge gaps in understanding of regional-scale, habitat-selection drivers and in understanding of how these drivers translate to environmental predictors expected to change under climate. To shed light on these knowledge gaps and to identify the possible range of climate impacts, I used the species distribution modeling program MAXENT to construct regional-scale core- and travel-habitat suitability models for the Washington-BC transboundary region. I then used MAXENT to project the core habitat suitability model to eighteen future climates projected for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s under six different climate scenarios. Results point to differences between habitat selection at regional scales and that at local and broad scales. Relationships in the travel-habitat model suggest dispersal plasticity in lynx. Consistent with projections for lynx done at broad scales, projections for future climates unanimously indicated a northward range shift and increased habitat fragmentation over time. Though highly variable, all scenarios predicted loss of all suitable habitat cores in Washington State by the 2050s, and most predicted loss of all cores within the transboundary study area by the 2080s. My projections offer finer-resolution delineation of potential outcomes for lynx in this region than any previous analyses, characterization of uncertainties in climate futures that managers can use to contextualize likely changes, and a baseline that informs effective management for southern periphery lynx in this area going forward.
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