Ecological connectivity has been a priority issue of the Cascadia Partner Forum since our inception.  The ability for wildlife to move on the landscape in response to change is a top adaptation strategy we aim to facilitate.  A new scientific article helps shed light on the role of connectivity and specifically areas within Cascadia are important in a climate change strategy at a continental scale.

Researchers Carlos Carroll, Sean Parks, Solomon Dobrowski, and David Roberts wrote that “as climatic conditions shift in coming decades, persistence of many populations will depend on their ability to colonize habitat newly suitable for their climatic requirements. Opportunities for such range shifts may be limited unless areas that facilitate dispersal under climate change are identified and protected from land uses that impede movement. While many climate adaptation strategies focus on identifying refugia, this study is the first to characterize areas which merit protection for their role in promoting climate connectivity at a continental extent.”

In their work they, “identified climate connectivity areas across North America by delineating paths between current climate types and their future analogs that avoided non-analogous climates, and used centrality metrics to rank the contribution of each location to facilitating dispersal across the landscape.”  They found that areas within Cascadia were a high connectivity conservation priority including in southwestern British Columbia where “areas of high human impact index” were evident and the “expansion of the human footprint associated with exurban growth could result in land use changes that reduce the permeability of the landscape to native species.”

Data from the analysis for this scientific article is available through AdaptWest on Databasin.

Results from this study can help land managers create more effective responses to climate change by identifying landscape features which promote connectivity among refugia. Additionally this course-scale connectivity analysis at the continental scale complements finer scale connectivity analyses available (such as those by the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group) to guide management and conservation decisions to maintain and restore a network of connected habitats within and to Cascadia today and in a shifting climate.

Categories: Priority Issues