COS 83-3 - Systematically prioritizing the conservation of ecological lands through the use of climate velocities

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 8:40 AM
B110-111, Oregon Convention Center
Jeffrey Haight and Edd Hammill, Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, UT

Wildlife management in the face of potential climatic changes requires information on the spatial distribution of the exposure of species and ecosystems to changing climate conditions. When seeking to acquire new areas for conservation, it is prudent for managers to prioritize broad areas of relatively low vulnerability to climate shifts across the landscape – i.e. macrorefugia. Quantifying an area’s exposure to changing climate conditions is key to assessing its relative vulnerability. This can be done through the calculation of climate velocity, the rate at which organisms must travel in order to persist within their climate envelopes given some projected shift in climatic parameters. Despite the oft-stated potential of climate velocities to serve as proxy measures of vulnerability, relatively little has yet been done to directly incorporate these metrics into systematic landscape planning strategies. We independently calculated climate velocities based on selected bioclimatic variables and evaluated relative exposure within contrasting spatial extents: the ecoregions of the Intermountain West and the distributions of multiple terrestrial species of concern. Based on the resulting patterns in exposure, we then used the software program Marxan to spatially prioritize the conservation of potential climate macrorefugia.


When different climatic parameters were employed in isolation, we uncovered a high degree of spatial mismatch in patterns of climate velocities and resulting conservation priority. When multiple climatic parameters were used simultaneously to calculate climate velocities, the overall distances that organisms would need to move to maintain their climate envelopes increased substantially, and the extent of high priority areas was reduced across the landscape. This reduction of high priority areas occurs due to the spatial mismatch between projected shifts in climate parameters and we believe it is useful for helping to narrow potential management options. Our results highlights that fully quantifying the vulnerability of individual species, populations, and ecosystems to climate change requires an understanding of individual sensitivities to case-specific climate variables. It is therefore crucial to select appropriate climate metrics for the species/ecosystems being managed. Despite the cautions advised in the selection of appropriate climate variables, the methods outlined here demonstrate the direct role that climate velocities can play in helping landscape managers to effectively identify possible climate macrorefugia. We hope that the results and framework we describe will aid managers in efficiently allocating conservation resources with the goal of promoting climate change resilience.