Wildlife Corridors and Climate Change

Snapshot: Both social and landscape networks are needed for effective climate-wise connectivity

By Morgan Gray, Conservation Analyst – Pepperwood

Climate-wise connectivity is essential to provide species with access to suitable habitats in the future. Connectivity that allows plants and animals to move to cooler places is particularly important in coastal areas with rugged terrain, where microclimates drive temperature gradients. One way to maintain climate-wise connectivity is to create linkages between protected areas. However, the slow implementation of connectivity plans remains a challenge that hinders biodiversity conservation.

Realizing climate-wise connectivity on the ground requires both identifying and securing habitat linkages that provide climate resilience. This can be done by combining a measurement of the climate adaptation benefit provided by linkages with an understanding of the needs of the practitioners who enact conservation plans locally.

The outcomes of an assessment conducted by the Mayacamas to Berryessa Connectivity Network (M2B) illustrate the intertwined need for both social and landscape connections in effective climate-wise connectivity planning. A recent case study details how M2B identified terrestrial and riparian linkages between protected areas for the interior coastal ranges in northern California. The research used the novel metric of cooling benefit to calculate how much each linkage contributes to climate resilience. A companion paper describes how M2B fostered collaboration between scientists and practitioners throughout the project – from co-creating the methods to collectively prioritizing linkages for implementation.Read the rest of this blog on Conservation Corridor’s website and learn more about landscape linkages, here.

In the weeds: two publications

In these two major forays into large landscape conservation planning, Dr.’s Morgan Gray, Tosha Comendant, Adina Merenlender and Lisa Micheli went deep into the research of the social science of conservation collectives to learn what factors influence participants to use results. The goal is twofold: to bridge landscape ecology and climate science, and to bring people together for conservation from an ecological and social perspective.

Climate-Wise Habitat Connectivity Takes Sustained Stakeholder Engagement

Well-managed and connected protected area networks are needed to combat the 6th mass extinction, yet the implementation of plans intended to secure landscape connectivity remains insufficient. The failure to translate planning efforts into effective action (i.e., the research-implementation gap) hinders our ability to conserve biodiversity threatened by ongoing climate change and habitat fragmentation. Sustained collaboration between researchers and practitioners to co-produce conservation strategies can bridge this gap by providing end-users with implementation guidance based on legitimate, relevant, and trusted information. However, few case studies capture methods for the co-production and use of climate-wise connectivity knowledge. Here we describe the framework for sustained engagement used by a multi-jurisdictional practitioner network to co-produce climate-wise linkages for the interior coastal ranges in Northern California. We found iterative co-production shaped ecological objectives, input data, analytical methods, and implementation priorities. Stakeholders used both co-produced and local socio-ecological (e.g., development threat, management priorities) knowledge to finalize corridor implementation plans. Priority corridors afforded greater climate benefit and were more likely to connect lands managed by participant organizations. Our results demonstrate how collaborative partnerships can bridge the gap between connectivity research and implementation. Lessons learned, outcomes, and future plans provide insights to advance landscape-scale resilience to climate change.

Read the full article here.

Quantifying Climate-Wise Connectivity across a Topographically Diverse Landscape

Climate-wise connectivity is essential to provide species access to suitable habitats in the future, yet we lack a consistent means of quantifying climate adaptation benefits of habitat linkages. Species range shifts to cooler climates have been widely observed, suggesting we should protect pathways providing access to cooler locations. However, in topographically diverse regions, the effects of elevation, seasonality, and proximity to large water bodies are complex drivers of biologically relevant temperature gradients. Here, we identify potential terrestrial and riparian linkages and their cooling benefit using mid-century summer and winter temperature extremes for interior coastal ranges in Northern California. It is rare for the same area to possess both terrestrial and riparian connectivity value. Our analysis reveals distinct differences in the magnitude and orientation of cooling benefits between the summer maximum and winter minimum temperatures provided by the linkages we delineated for the area. The cooling benefits for both linkage types were maximized to the west during summer, but upslope and to the northeast during winter. The approach we employ here provides an improved method to prioritize climate-wise connectivity and promote landscape resilience for topographically diverse regions.

Find the full article here.

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