Effects of Climate Change on Species Distributions
Research team: Josh Lawler, Carrie Schloss
Recent changes in the Earth’s climate have resulted in ecological changes in phenology, species distributions, community composition, and ecosystem dynamics. Because climate change estimates for the coming decade are predicted to be more severe than past changes, we are likely to see even more drastic effects on ecological systems in the future. We are investigating the effects of climate change on species distributions and the resulting implications for conservation. Specifically, we are asking how climate-induced range shifts will affect protected lands and how conservation planning approaches can provide protection for biodiversity in a changing climate.
Tools for assessing climate change impacts
Research team: Evan Girvetz, Josh Lawler, Peter Kareiva (TNC)
The goal of this project is to develop a toolbox and handbook that can be used by conservation planners, to: (1) assess how climate change over the past century may already be affecting the ecological functioning of conservation priority areas; (2) project how future climate change will likely affect the ecological functioning of the conservation priority areas; (3) integrate future climate change into the systematic conservation planning process for identifying conservation portfolios that will be robust to a changing climate; and (4) provide tools and a framework for developing informative stories, pamphlets, and reports about how climate change may impact conservation priorities. The core tool being developed by this project is called the ClimateWizard
—an interactive, web-based, climate change analysis tool that allows practitioners to analyze climate data at specific geographic locations or areas of interest, and produces an interactive website displaying climate change maps, graphs, and tables for the specific area analyzed.
Assessing Climate Change Impacts in the Southwestern United States
Research Team: Evan Girvetz, Carolyn Enquist (TNC)
We are working as part of a multi-organizational team, including The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Arizona to expand a climate-impacts assessment conducted for New Mexico to cover Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. This project will use the ClimateWizard
to assess recent and potential future climatic changes, then apply a climate change vulnerability assessment tool currently being developed by the U.S. Forest Service and an adaptation planning framework developed by a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS
) working group to a series of case-study sites. Together, these “field-tested” tools will be useful in the development of conservation action plans, monitoring plans, forest and fire plans, and in building a regional learning network –all crucial to meeting the challenges posed by climate change for on-the-ground conservation.
Simulating the effect of Multiple Stressors on At-risk Populations (SIMSAP)
Research team: Betsy Bancroft, Chad Wilsey, Josh Lawler
Species at risk of extinction often face multiple interacting threats. Successfully and efficiently managing at-risk populations requires an understanding of how these threats interact and which will have the largest impact on population persistence. In collaboration with scientists at the US Environmental Protection Agency, we are enhancing a spatially explicit population model (HexSim) to allow 1) modeling of complex interactions among stressors and 2) simulation of interactions between multiple wildlife populations. We are using the improved model to evaluate the relative and cumulative impacts of military activities, environmental stochasticity, anticipated climate change, and other species- and site-specific threats to three at-risk species: red-cockaded woodpeckers, black-capped vireos, and desert tortoises.
Climate-change vulnerability assessment
Research team: Josh Lawler, Michael Case, Elizabeth Gray (TNC), Sarah Shafer (USGS)
Some species and ecosystems will be more susceptible to climate change than others. Allocating resources for managing species and systems in a rapidly changing climate will require an understanding of which species and systems will be most vulnerable to climate change. We are conducting a multi-phased vulnerability assessment for the Pacific Northwestern U.S. that involves building a climate sensitivity database, downscaling projected future climate projections, projecting potential shifts in major vegetation types, and forecasting potential shifts in the distributions of individual species.
Climate impacts on native and invasive fish
Research team: Julian Olden (UW, SAFS), Josh Lawler, Christian Torgersen (USGS/UW), Aaron Ruesch, Tim Beechie (NOAA)
We are developing an analytical framework for linking climate change, geomorphic sensitivity, riparian land-use, stream thermodynamics, and species invasions for the management and conservation of native salmonids. The framework will be applied to the John Day River, Oregon, where human-induced stream warming is promoting the range expansion of invasive smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu
) and northern pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis
) into formerly cool reaches that contain critical habitats for endangered Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
). The project has three objectives. First, we will predict spatiotemporal patterns of riverine thermal regimes in response to future climate change, geomorphic sensitivity, and riparian land-use. Second, we will forecast species-specific responses to projected future thermal regimes. Third, we will evaluate alternative scenarios of climate change to identify critical opportunities for riparian habitat restoration and protection to mediate future climate-induced warming of streams and species invasions.