Webinar: When seasons change: Building climate connectivity for topographically diverse regions
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Morgan Gray is a quantitative ecologist whose research focus is global change biology, with an emphasis on forecasting the impacts of land use and climate change on species and ecosystems for natural resource management and conservation. She has a PhD from UC Berkeley, where her dissertation research was on landscape-scale ecological connectivity. Specifically, she used spatial models and genetic analyses to explore the influence of human land use on mammals in California. As a Postdoctoral Researcher at Pepperwood Foundation, Morgan integrates expertise in ecological principles and geospatial modeling to help conservationists keep landscapes functional and connected.
Ensuring landscape connectivity efforts allow species to persist as climate changes is crucial to biodiversity conservation. By identifying critical habitat linkages that offer site-specific climate adaptation and landscape connectivity benefits, conservation planners can proactively enhance climate connectivity within their protected area networks. Climate connectivity analyses often evaluate models constructed using mean annual average temperature – a variable that does not capture seasonality in locations with topographic and climatic diversity. To evaluate the landscape and climate connectivity across a human-modified and topographically-diverse landscape, we constructed linkages between existing protected areas using an ecological integrity cost surface. We then calculated the climate benefit provided by each linkage for mid-century climate models for three temperature variables: annual average, mean summer maximum, and mean winter minimum temperature. Our results showed unique trends for summer and winter variables across the landscape in the future model scenarios that were not apparent in the annual average analyses. Further, the linkages offering the greatest climate benefit differed between the summer and winter variables. Including seasonal temperature variation in climate forecasts for conservation planning in locations with topographic and climatic diversity can inform landscape connectivity by accounting for nuances in microclimates that are absent in forecasts made using annual average temperature data as input.