Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation in the Southeast Region
Climate change is altering species distributions in unpredictable ways (IPPC 2007, Van der Putten et al. 2010) and conservationists require a way to prioritize strategic land conservation that will conserve the maximum amount of biological diversity despite changing distribution patterns. Conservation approaches based on species locations or on predicted species’ responses to climate, are necessary, but hampered by uncertainty. Here we offer a complementary approach, one that aims to identify key areas for conservation based on land characteristics that increase diversity and resilience.
A climate-resilient conservation portfolio includes sites representative of all geophysical settings selected for their landscape diversity and local connectedness. We developed methods to identify such a portfolio. First, we mapped geophysical settings across the entire study area. Second, within each geophysical setting we located sites with diverse topography that were highly connected by natural cover. Third, we compared the identified sites with the current network of conservation lands and with The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC’s) portfolio of important biodiversity sites identified based on rare species and natural community locations. Using this information we noted geophysical settings that were underrepresented in current conservation and identified places for each setting that could serve as strongholds for diversity both now and into the future.