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Facilitating climate‐change‐induced range shifts across continental land‐use barriers

Robillard, Cassandra M., Coristine, Laura E., Soares, Rosana N., Kerr, Jeremy T.
Conservation biology 2015 v.29 no.6 pp. 1586-1595
adaptive management, climate change, climatic factors, habitat destruction, humans, interspecific variation, land use, landscapes, monitoring, population growth, refuge habitats, species dispersal, uncertainty, North America
Climate changes impose requirements for many species to shift their ranges to remain within environmentally tolerable areas, but near‐continuous regions of intense human land use stretching across continental extents diminish dispersal prospects for many species. We reviewed the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation on species’ abilities to track changing climates and existing plans to facilitate species dispersal in response to climate change through regions of intensive land uses, drawing on examples from North America and elsewhere. We identified an emerging analytical framework that accounts for variation in species' dispersal capacities relative to both the pace of climate change and habitat availability. Habitat loss and fragmentation hinder climate change tracking, particularly for specialists, by impeding both propagule dispersal and population growth. This framework can be used to identify prospective modern‐era climatic refugia, where the pace of climate change has been slower than surrounding areas, that are defined relative to individual species' needs. The framework also underscores the importance of identifying and managing dispersal pathways or corridors through semi‐continental land use barriers that can benefit many species simultaneously. These emerging strategies to facilitate range shifts must account for uncertainties around population adaptation to local environmental conditions. Accounting for uncertainties in climate change and dispersal capabilities among species and expanding biological monitoring programs within an adaptive management paradigm are vital strategies that will improve species' capacities to track rapidly shifting climatic conditions across landscapes dominated by intensive human land use.