Session: A Dynamic Perspective on Ecosystem Restoration: Establishing Temporal Connectivity at the Intersection Between Paleoecology and Restoration Ecology
Creating resilient landscapes through connectivity: Lessons learned from the past
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Jenny L. McGuire, Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, Yue Wang, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA and Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IL
Jenny L. McGuire
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences, Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Background/Question/Methods Given the magnitude of projected climate change, we anticipate that ecosystems will shift across the landscape as they struggle to adapt. The restoration of certain habitat connections and natural areas will be critical to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem service going forward. However, it can be challenging to identify the most effective strategies to allow ecosystems to bounce forward in the face of impending anthropogenic change. To create an effective landscape network, we must first understand how plants and animals are anticipated to respond to changing climates. How will species need to shift their ranges as climate changes? To what extent will habitat fragmentation hinder this movement? And what species will be most impeded by human-impacted landscapes? We use the late Quaternary fossil record from the Neotoma database to begin to address these questions and suggest ways forward for prioritizing landscape connectivity strategies. Results/Conclusions We find that plants respond dynamically to changing climates, exhibiting rapid turnover once temperature changes exceed 1.5°C/500 years. This turnover translates to long-term, directional transitions in 35% of cases, where plant biomes do not recover back to previous states, suggesting movement across the landscape. If we examine today’s landscapes, we see that the potential for range movement is quite limited. Only 41% of natural areas in the contiguous United States exhibit climate connectivity with human-impacted lands preventing climate tracking for 25% of natural land areas. However, we can also find that not all species are equally inhibited by human-impacted lands. For example, we find that amongst mammals about one third of common species in North America shift the climates where they live to avoid human-impacted regions, but that one third actually expand into agricultural- and urban-associated climates. Past, large-scale responses are critical to inform which plants and animals most respond to changing climates, what their range dynamics will be going forward, and which are hindered by the expanding human footprint. By combining this information we can identify the most important regions for conservation and what restoration objectives will facilitate this dynamically changing landscape, bouncing biodiversity conservation forward by creating a connected landscape.