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Connecting today's climates to future climate analogs to facilitate movement of species under climate change

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Increasing connectivity is an important strategy for facilitating species range shifts and maintaining biodiversity in the face of climate change. To date, however, few researchers have included future climate projections in efforts to prioritize areas for increasing connectivity. We identified key areas likely to facilitate climate‐induced species’ movement across western North America. Using historical climate data sets and future climate projections, we mapped potential species’ movement routes that link current climate conditions to analogous climate conditions in the future (i.e., future climate analogs) with a novel moving‐window analysis based on electrical circuit theory. In addition to tracing shifting climates, the approach accounted for landscape permeability and empirically derived species’ dispersal capabilities. We compared connectivity maps generated with our climate‐change‐informed approach with maps of connectivity based solely on the degree of human modification of the landscape. Including future climate projections in connectivity models substantially shifted and constrained priority areas for movement to a smaller proportion of the landscape than when climate projections were not considered. Potential movement, measured as current flow, decreased in all ecoregions when climate projections were included, particularly when dispersal was limited, which made climate analogs inaccessible. Many areas emerged as important for connectivity only when climate change was modeled in 2 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 an important step toward facilitating successful species movement and population persistence in a changing climate.
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Keywords: adaptación al cambio climático; análogos climáticos; climate analogs; climate‐change adaptation; conectividad; connectivity; dispersal; dispersión

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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