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Media Spotlight: Informing Adaptation Strategies for Maintaining Landscape Connectivity for Norther Rockies Wildlife in the Face of Climate Change

For the month of March, the North Central Climate Science Center will be highlighting each of the recently announced projects recommended for funding in 2015 that will guide our revamp work in the years to come. This week, we will look at a project lead by Steven Hostetler of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center entitled “Informing Adaptation Strategies for Maintaining Landscape Connectivity for Northern Rockies Wildlife in the Face of Climate Change.

The way that human communities divide parcels of land can have a detrimental impact on local species, particularly when new development cuts off corridors of travel between important ecological biomes. Because the full impact of climate change on each of these biomes has not yet been realized, it is important now more than ever to ensure that land management objectives focus on enhancing landscape connectivity and protecting these important passageways.

The northern Rockies are home to the greatest diversity of large carnivores and ungulates in the continental US, but many of these species are threatened by climate change and land fragmentation resulting from human activity. Ensuring landscape connectivity may be the most important key in supporting the capacity for wildlife to adapt to a changing climate, which will require first understanding which parcels of land are the most vulnerable to change, which are the most important for wildlife movement, and which management options will yield the best results given future climate scenarios.

To answer these questions, Hostetler’s research team will identify conservation targets and assess the vulnerability of each to a changing climate. Partners will then meet at the Fort Collins Science Center’s Resource for Advanced Molding facility to visually explore importance of these connected spaces to determine “priority landscapes”. These regions will be selected backed on the vulnerability assessment, but will also include significant input from management partners. The team will then look at options for climate-smart management plans that can assist decision-makers in the northern Rockies region going forward.

More information on this and other projects recommended for funding can be found here.