Accounting for habitat range shifts in species conservation planning

Research Sponsored By: US Forest Service
Principal Investigator: Sándor F. Tóth
Project Description
Long term changes in annual temperature and precipitation may shift geographic regions of suitable habitat for a variety of sensitive species. Our goal is to construct a model for use by conservation planners to evaluate strategies that facilitate species movement and adaptation in response to changes in climate. We will incorporate habitat range projection and species demography, including migration and adaptation, into a mathematical model for determining optimal reserve site selection. Climate change represents a formidable threat to many species across the globe. As environmental factors like temperature and precipitation continue to change, the geographic regions containing suitable conditions for a given species are moving. In response, species may migrate to track their region of suitable habitat or adapt to new environmental conditions. Whether a species survives depends in part on changes in habitat and the species’ ability to migrate and adapt. The model that we propose will allow analysts to develop and evaluate land management strategies that enhance landscape connectivity, habitat quality, and the likelihood that species populations will survive in the face of climate change. We expect that the results of our model will complement experiments and observations, historical records, and genetic analyses that form the basis of informed species conservation plans.