Leveraging modern climatology to increase adaptive capacity across protected area networks

Davison, J.E. et al. | Global Environmental Change | 2012 | Peer Reviewed | Original research | https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.10.002


Human-driven changes in the global environment pose an increasingly urgent challenge for the management of ecosystems that is made all the more difficult by the uncertain future of both environmental conditions and ecological responses. Land managers need strategies to increase regional adaptive capacity, but relevant and rapid assessment approaches are lacking. To address this need, we developed a method to assess regional protected area networks across biophysically important climatic gradients often linked to biodiversity and ecosystem function. We plot the land of the southwestern United States across axes of historical climate space, and identify landscapes that may serve as strategic additions to current protected area portfolios. Considering climate space is straightforward, and it can be applied using a variety of relevant climate parameters across differing levels of land protection status. The resulting maps identify lands that are climatically distinct from existing protected areas, and may be utilized in combination with other ecological and socio-economic information essential to collaborative landscape-scale decision-making. Alongside other strategies intended to protect species of special concern, natural resources, and other ecosystem services, the methods presented herein provide another important hedging strategy intended to increase the adaptive capacity of protected area networks.