Mapping Connections across Ecosystems in the Northeast to Inform Climate Refugia Networks
As the climate continues to change, vulnerable wildlife species will need specific management strategies to help them adapt to these changes. One specific management strategy is based on the idea that some locations that species inhabit today will remain suitable over time and should be protected. The climate conditions at those locations will continue to be good enough for species to survive and breed successfully and are referred to as climate refugia. Another management strategy is based on the idea that species will need to shift across the landscape to track suitable conditions and reach climate refugia locations as climate and land uses change over time.
The more opportunities we can give species to safely move across the landscape, by linking between their preferred habitat patches, the more likely they will be to adapt to climate change. For example, animals that live in emergent wetlands are more likely to move across the landscape in habitats similar to emergent wetlands. Similarly, animals that breed in coniferous forests are likely to prefer to move through similar coniferous forests. Many conservation tools that have been developed do not take animals’ habitat preferences into account. This project aims to fill this gap by mapping the connections across the northeastern U.S. for each of the major ecosystems present in the region. This will inform conservation managers in decision-making about how to best manage locations to allow for animal movement across the landscape, even if they don’t know specifically where the animals may end up in future.