Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
U.S. Department of the Interior * Fish and Wildlife Service
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Climate change is driving shifts in the distribution of plants and animals, and prioritizing management actions for such shifts is a necessary but technically difficult challenge. We worked with state agencies in the southeastern United States to identify high-priority amphibian species, to model the vulnerabilities of those species to regional climate change, and to identify long-term climatic refugia within the context of existing conservation lands. Directly interfacing with state natural resource experts ensured that 1) species prioritization schemes extend beyond political boundaries and 2) our models resulted in conservation-relevant applications. We used a correlative model to project midcentury distributions of suitable climate for priority species and to evaluate each species' vulnerability to climate change. Using spatially explicit projected climate distributions, we ranked existing protected areas relative to their ability to provide climatic refugia for priority species in 2050. We identified 21 species as regional high-priority species. Fifteen of the 21 species are forecast to lose more than 85% of their climatically suitable habitat. Regions in the Appalachian Mountains, the Florida Panhandle, and the north-central region of Alabama are projected to lose the most climatic habitat for priority amphibian species. We identified many existing protected areas as midcentury climatic refugia in the Appalachians; however, our projections indicated refugia in the Southeast Coastal Plain to be exceedingly scarce. Although the topographic relief present in the Appalachians appears to provide future conservation opportunities via climatic refugia, the Coastal Plain affords fewer such opportunities and conservation of amphibians in that region is likely to be more challenging. The approach outlined here could be applied across a broad range of taxa and regions.
Barrett K, Nibbelink NP, Maerz JC. 2014. Identifying priority species and conservation opportunities under future climate scenarios: amphibians in a biodiversity hotspot. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 5(2):282–297; e1944-687X. doi: 10.3996/022014-JFWM-015