Thursday, August 5, 2010 - 3:30 PM

SYMP 21-6: Planning for landscape connectivity in a changing climate

Meade Krosby1, Joshua J. Tewksbury1, and Nick M. Haddad2. (1) University of Washington, (2) North Carolina State University

Increasing landscape connectivity is the most frequently recommended strategy for biodiversity conservation in a changing climate. This raises two important questions: is the popularity of this approach warranted, and how should connected landscapes be designed for climate change? The answer to the second question, in particular, demands immediate answers, as climate change should be fully integrated into connectivity planning efforts. Connectivity plans designed for static climates are at risk of failing to provide functional connectivity as climates change, and they may also fail to accommodate climate-driven shifts in species' geographical ranges. Yet methods for incorporating climate change into landscape connectivity plans are still in their infancy, and a wide variety of approaches are possible.
We argue that increasing connectivity deserves its position at the forefront of climate change adaptation strategies. We show that the north-south and elevational extents of existing North American habitat reserves are far smaller than expected shifts in species ranges, suggesting that new conservation land acquisitions should be directed at increasing connectivity among isolated reserves. We illustrate how many climate-related conservation strategies, such as assisted migration, could be made safer and more effective if implemented in the context of increasing connectivity. Finally, we evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches for integrating climate change into connectivity planning, and provide an on-the-ground example of climate-smart connectivity planning in the context of the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group’s effort to integrate climate change into its statewide and regional connectivity plans.