Increasing connectivity is an important strategy for facilitating species range shifts and maintaining biodiversity in the face of climate change. To date, however, few studies have included future climate projections in efforts to prioritize areas for increasing connectivity. Here, we identify key areas likely to facilitate climate-induced species movement across western North America. Using historical climate datasets and future climate projections, we mapped potential routes between current climates and their future analogs using a novel moving-window analysis based on electrical circuit theory. In addition to tracing shifting climates, the approach accounts for landscape permeability and empirically-derived species dispersal capacities. We compared connectivity maps generated with our climate-change informed approach to maps of connectivity based solely upon the degree of human modification of the landscape.
We show that including future climate projections in connectivity models substantially shifts and constrains priority areas for movement to a smaller proportion of the landscape than when climate projections are not considered. Predicted movement decreases in all ecoregions when climate projections are included, particularly when dispersal capacities are highly constrained, making climate analogs inaccessible. In addition, many areas emerge as important for connectivity only when climate change is modeled in two time steps rather than in a single time step. Our results illustrate that movement routes needed to track changing climatic conditions may differ from those that connect present-day landscapes. Incorporating future climate projections into connectivity modeling is important for conservation planners to understanding how to best facilitate successful species movement and persistence of biodiversity in a changing climate.