Regional Focal Areas for Species of Greatest Conservation Need Based on Site Adaptive Capacity, Network Resilience and Connectivity

RCN Topic
Regional Focal Areas

Resilience concerns the ability of a living system to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with consequences, in short: its capacity to adapt. In this project, we aimed to identify the most resilient examples of key geophysical settings (sand plains, granitic mountains, limestone valleys, etc.), in relation to species of greatest conservation need, to provide conservationists with a nuanced picture of the places where conservation is most likely to succeed under climate change. The central idea was that by mapping key geophysical settings and evaluating them for landscape characteristics that buffer against climate effects, we could identify the most resilient examples of each setting.  Our approach was based on observations that 1) species diversity is highly correlated with geophysical diversity, and 2) that species take advantage of the micro-climates available in complex landscapes and 3) if the area is permeable, species can move to adjust to climatic changes.

Developing a quantitative estimate of site resilience was the essence of the project, and we accomplished this by measuring the landscape complexity and permeability of every 30 by 30 square meter of the region, creating comprehensive wall-to-wall data on the physical components of resilience. We applied the information to known species sites and compared the scores between sites with a similar geophysical composition to identify the most resilient sites for each setting. Further, we analyzed broad east-west and north-south permeability gradients to identify areas where ecological flows and species movements potentially become concentrated. These areas may need conservation attention to allow the biota to adjust to a changing climate.

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