Optimizing resiliency of reserve networks to climate change: multispecies conservation planning in the Pacific Northwest, USA

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Carroll, Carlos, Dunk, Jeffrey R., and Moilanen, Atte
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The effectiveness of a system of reserves may be compromised under climate change as species' habitat shifts to nonreserved areas, a problem that may be compounded when well-studied vertebrate species are used as conservation umbrellas for other taxa. The Northwest Forest Plan was among the first efforts to integrate conservation of wide-ranging focal species and localized endemics into regional conservation planning. We evaluated how effectively the plan's focal species, the Northern Spotted Owl, acts as an umbrella for localized species under current and projected future climates and how the regional system of reserves can be made more resilient to climate change. We used the program maxent to develop distribution models integrating climate data with vegetation variables for the owl and 130 localized species. We used the program zonation to identify a system of areas that efficiently captures habitat for both the owl and localized species and prioritizes refugial areas of climatic and topographic heterogeneity where current and future habitat for dispersal-limited species is in proximity. We projected future species' distributions based on an ensemble of contrasting climate models, and incorporating uncertainty between alternate climate projections into the prioritization process. Reserve solutions based on the owl overlap areas of high localized-species richness but poorly capture core areas of localized species' distribution. Congruence between priority areas across taxa increases when refugial areas are prioritized. Although core-area selection strategies can potentially increase the conservation value and resilience of regional reserve systems, they accentuate contrasts in priority areas between species and over time and should be combined with a broadened taxonomic scope and increased attention to potential effects of climate change. Our results suggest that systems of fixed reserves designed for resilience can increase the likelihood of retaining the biological diversity of forest ecosystems under climate change.


Carroll, C., J. R. Dunk, and A. Moilanen. 2010. Optimizing resiliency of reserve networks to climate change: multispecies conservation planning in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Global Change Biology 16:891–904. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01965.x.