The geography of climate change: implications for conservation biogeography

Ackerly, D. D., Loarie, S. R., Cornwell, W. K., Weiss, S. B, Hamilton, H., Branciforte, R. and Kraft, N. J. B.
Geographic Keywords:

Aim: Climate change poses significant threats to biodiversity, including impacts on species distributions, abundance and ecological interactions. At a landscape scale, these impacts, and biotic responses such as adaptation and migration, will be mediated by spatial heterogeneity in climate and climate change. We examine several aspects of the geography of climate change and their significance for biodiversity conservation.

Location:  California and Nevada, USA.

Methods:  Using current climate surfaces (PRISM) and two scenarios of future climate (A1b, 2070–2099, warmer-drier and warmer-wetter), we mapped disappearing, declining, expanding and novel climates, and the velocity and direction of climate change in California and Nevada. We also examined fine-scale spatial heterogeneity in protected areas of the San Francisco Bay Area in relation to reserve size, topographic complexity and distance from the ocean.

Results:  Under the two climate change scenarios, current climates across most of California and Nevada will shrink greatly in extent, and the climates of the highest peaks will disappear from this region. Expanding and novel climates are projected for the Central Valley. Current temperature isoclines are projected to move up to 4.9 km year−1 in flatter regions, but substantially slower in mountainous areas because of steep local topoclimate gradients. In the San Francisco Bay Area, climate diversity within currently protected areas increases with reserve size and proximity to the ocean (the latter because of strong coastal climate gradients). However, by 2100 of almost 500 protected areas (>100 ha), only eight of the largest are projected to experience temperatures within their currently observed range. Topoclimate variability will further increase the range of conditions experienced and needs to be incorporated in future analyses.

Main Conclusions:  Spatial heterogeneity in climate, from mesoclimate to topoclimate scales, represents an important spatial buffer in response to climate change, and merits increased attention in conservation planning.


Ackerly, D. D., S. R. Loarie, W. K. Cornwell, S. B. Weiss, H. Hamilton, R. Branciforte, and N. J. B. Kraft. 2010. The geography of climate change: implications for conservation biogeography. Diversity and Distributions 16:476-487. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2010.00654.x.


Attached below are the article and a separate supplemental information document.