Climate change adaptation strategies in a fragmented landscape

A multi-species modelling approach to examine the impact of alternative climate change adaptation strategies on range shifting ability in a fragmented landscape

Mixed broadleaves in tree shelters on a PAWS restoration site in Mortimer forest.This paper describes research to test the effects of varying ‘climate change adaptation strategies’ on the ability of different animals to move through the landscape in response to changing climatic conditions.  The adaptation strategies tested were:  1) the improvement of existing habitat, 2) the restoration of low quality habitat and 3) the creation of new habitat.  These strategies were tested on a landscape typical of the fragmented habitats of the UK.  

A mathematical model was used to simulate the dispersal and population dynamics for eight different animal species and to differentiate between the use of climate change adaptation strategies next to or away from existing habitat patches.  The total area being managed in the landscape for different adaptation strategies was set to realistic levels based on recent habitat management trends.

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The results showed the abilities of each species to move through the landscape and adjust their distribution varied dramatically.  This reflected differences in their responses to each of the adaptation strategies.  It was found that with conservative estimates of the area undergoing climate change adaptation (0.5%), few species showed a noticeable improvement in their distribution.  With a larger (1%) area under-going adaptation, greater improvements in species’ distributions were found, although results were still species-specific.  This suggests a need for greater investment to enable adaptation of the landscape to our changing climate.

Overall, it was found that increasing the size of small existing patches of habitat was the best way to enable species to move through the landscape and adjust their distribution in response to changing climatic conditions.  The creation of new stepping stone features, whilst beneficial to some species, did not have such broad effect across different species.

Synes, N., Watts, K., Palmer, S., Bodedi, G., Barton, K., Osborne, P & Travis, J. (2015) A multi-species modelling approach to examine the impact of alternative climate change adaptation strategies on range shifting ability in a fragmented landscape, Ecological Informatics, June 2015.