Land managers have incorporated threats to biodiversity into land-use designation and management decisions for nearly two decades, but few efforts have included threats from future conditions and fewer still have assessed vulnerability to climate change. Our work provides foundational information about habitat fragmentation and connectivity in the Southern Rockies ecosystem and identifies the degree of vulnerability of water-limited habitats to climate change. This information is urgently needed because the region is facing large changes in climate conditions that will occur over broad landscapes. In addition to well-documented habitat fragmentation due to urban and energy development and associated transportation networks, these changes are likely to negatively impact sensitive species and ecological systems.
The goals of the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SRLCC) include informing resource management decisions regarding water, plants, and animals in the face of landscape stressors such as climate change and drought, and producing information that integrates climate modeling with ecological responses and management strategies. The information produced by this study is intended to support establishing quantitative-based priorities and conservation objectives in the SRLCC. Because climate change will likely result in a geographic re‐distribution of moisture and temperature combinations, species and ecological systems will thus need to move in order to remain in the climate space to which they are locally adapted. Given the high degree of uncertainty associated with predicting the ecological responses to climate and land use changes – especially at relatively fine scales (Loarie et al. 2009; Beier 2013) ‐‐ we pursued a cautious and pragmatic, landscape‐level approach.
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