If carbon dioxide levels and temperatures continue to rise, the consequences for climate connectivity may be dire. Connecting natural land patches improves climate connectivity, giving species sportiness to migrate as systems shift. Several strategies have been proposed to help species reach the climate zones where they will be able to survive.
Species benefit most when we connect low-lying areas in the foothills or along coastal regions to cooler mountains or inland regions.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice looks at how climate change already is affecting the nation’s wildlife and habitats, and addresses how natural resource managers will need to prepare for and adapt to these unprecedented changes.
The warmer air and ocean surface temperatures brought on by climate change impact corals and alter coral reef communities by prompting coral bleaching events and altering ocean chemistry. These impacts affect corals and the many organisms that use coral reefs as habitat. Reef degradation also reduces the ability of these systems to respond to change and mitigate storm surge events – a valuable ecosystem service.
Habitat Priority Planner (HPP) is a geographic information system (GIS) tool for identifying and prioritizing areas for conservation, restoration and land use planning. The tool can be used in conjunction with climate change data to assess potential impacts on fragmentation/connectivity and prioritize areas for conservation based on those impacts.
Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and shifts in vegetation communities are changing the effective range and distribution of many native and agricultural species. These habitat shifts impact species and ecosystems.
Climate is an important environmental influence on ecosystems. Warming is likely to force some species to migrate to higher latitudes or higher elevations where temperatures are more conducive to their survival. Similarly, as sea level rises, saltwater intrusion into a freshwater system may force some key species to relocate or die, thus removing predators or prey that were critical in the existing food chain. Negative impacts to species and habitats have already been observed.
Climate change has already been linked to changes in habitats and ecosystems, including species composition, weather patterns and the length of the seasons. As average global temperature continues to warm, these changes will continue. Plans to enhance resilience now can help reduce vulnerabilities and improve the adaptive capacity of habitats and ecosystems.
Climate change has already been linked to changes in wildlife distribution, reproduction and behavior. Enhancing connectivity and “conserving the stage” are critical conservation objectives that can help species adapt to changing conditions.