The goal for this project was to create comprehensive species and landscape analyses and mapping through a novel combination of modeling and planning. The connectivity linkage maps for the South Coast Ecoregion developed through this project serve to support practical, proactive management of biodiversity under climate change.
Across Southern California, there is a range of predicted outcomes from models of climate change. General predictions for the western U.S. indicate that temperatures will increase overall and there will be a trend toward increasing variability in precipitation and an increase in drought events.
Maintaining regional biodiversity and ecological function of our natural landscapes in the face of a changing climate, coupled with ongoing land use development, is one of the central and burgeoning issues facing land managers.
In Southern California, ecological networks established under California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program have been developed in response to widespread habitat fragmentation in the region.
These networks provide what is often referred to as landscape connectivity, which allows for movement of wildlife among patches of suitable habitat. Landscape connectivity reduces the chance of extinction for small populations, maintains gene flow in patchy landscapes, and protects populations against catastrophic risks.
Over longer time scales, and in the face of changing environmental conditions, connectivity will also prove critical for facilitating range shifts in response to landscape changes caused by development, changing climate, and altered disturbance regimes.
In this project, we developed regional-scale climate-smart connectivity planning.
Our approach combined ensemble species distribution models (SDMs) with dynamic metapopulation models to advance connectivity modeling and planning approaches accounting for climate change, land use shifts, and uncertainty.
This novel complement of techniques had never been used before to develop a robust analysis of habitat-specific connectivity for multiple species.
These maps will be used to develop an implementation guide and decision support framework to aid government agencies. The guide will inform agency efforts such as: identification and prioritization of land acquisition targets; land management goals; and habitat enhancement projects to protect and improve landscape linkages that will be resilient to climate change.
The decision support guide will be driven by and developed through partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Region 5), which will be implementing and managing these landscape connections. Also, the guide will include actions to improve connectivity and enhance climate resiliency in the conservation network at the programmatic as well as the project level.
SDSU Project Team