Persistent climate corridors: The identification of climate refugia for the selection of candidate areas for conservation.
Keywords:climate change, conservation planning, persistent climate, climate refugia
Climate driven changes are catalyzing the global re-distribution of species and ecosystems, and is threatening their persistence. These changes undermine the current conservation paradigm that has a static approach to a dynamic system. Conservation planning agencies, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) recognize this quandary and have started to incorporate the potential (though uncertain) impacts of climate change into their planning framework. As a component of NCC’s Central Interior Ecoregional Assessment, we identified bioclimatic envelopes for 206 conservation targets (103 BC biogeoclimatic (BGC) variants, 30 terrestrial ecological units (TEUs), 73 BC Conservation Data Centre plant species) using ClimateBC and ArcMap GIS software. Using ClimateBC interpolations of current and expected future (as projected by the CGCM3 model and the A2 scenario) climatic conditions, the locations meeting the 5th through 95th percentile requirements of a target’s bioclimatic envelope were identified for four timeslices (baseline (1960s-1990s), 2020s, 2050s, 2080s) and subsequently overlaid using ArcMap. The points of coincidence between these areas were identified as a target’s projected suitable climate space (SCS); locations or areas of a target’s current distribution which coincided with its SCS were identified as the target’s persistent climate corridor (PCC). Our results projected PCCs for only 10% (10/103) of the BGC variants, 20% (6/30) of the TEUs and 10% (7/73) of plant species. When comparing the projected results with those derived for three different GCM and cenario combinations, it is clear that the existence and locations of PCCs are subject to great uncertainty. Nevertheless, we argue that the identification of climate refugia should be an important consideration in the site selection and prioritization of candidate areas for conservation.
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