Human-induced climate change is emerging as one of the gravest threats to biodiversity in history, and while a vast amount of literature on the ecological impact of climate change exists, very little has been dedicated to the management of wildlife populations and communities in the wake of unprecedented habitat changes. Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate is an essential resource, bringing together leaders in the fields of climate change ecology, wildlife population dynamics, and environmental policy to examine the impacts of climate change on populations of terrestrial vertebrates. Chapters assess the details of climate change ecology, including demographic implications for individual populations, evolutionary responses, impacts on movement patterns, alterations of species interactions, and predicting impacts across regions. The contributors also present a number of strategies by which conservationists and wildlife managers can counter or mitigate the impacts of climate change as well as increase the resilience of wildlife populations to such changes. A seminal contribution to the fields of ecology and conservation biology, Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate will serve as the spark that ignites a new direction of discussions about and action on the ecology and conservation of wildlife in a changing climate.
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About the Author
Jedediah F. Brodie is assistant professor of conservation ecology at the University of British Columbia. Eric S. Post is professor of biology at the Pennsylvania State University. Daniel F. Doak is professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming.
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Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate
The University of Chicago PressCopyright © 2013 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.
Chapter OneClimate Change and Wildlife Conservation
Jedediah F. Brodie, Eric Post, and Daniel F. Doak
Climate change is one of the paramount conservation issues of our time, with the potential to devastate biodiversity as we know it as well as disrupt human societies. While earth's climate has altered dramatically in the past, at least two factors make today's changes different. First is the unprecedented rate at which these changes are occurring. Even the incredibly rapid warming at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary (56 million years ago) is estimated to have been an order of magnitude slower than the global heating that is going on right now and which may continue, and even accelerate, over at least the next century. Second is the fact that climatic changes today are operating on ecosystems that are already heavily impacted by humans. Biodiversity increased in response to Paleocene-Eocene warming (Jaramillo et al. 2010) in part because organisms were able to undergo huge and unimpeded shifts in their distribution in response to changing physical conditions. Such shifts will be impossible in most areas today due to habitat loss and fragmentation on continental scales (Brodie et al. 2012a). Moreover, the resilience of many ecosystems to climate change may be weakened by the host of other anthropogenic threats that these systems face, such as overexploitation, invasive species, and pollution (Hansen et al. 2010). Indeed, the average risk of extinction by 2100, across taxa and regions, was recently estimated at 11% (Maclean and Wilson 2011).
Climate change has captured the attention of the public and scientists. Figure 1.1 shows the rapid rise of climate change literature published over the last three decades. Yet our understanding of how climate change affects biodiversity remains quite superficial (McMahon et al. 2011). For example, we have abundant evidence showing that climate change can lead to shifts in the timing of life-history events (e.g., earlier migration, advanced breeding dates, etc.), but relatively little knowledge about whether or how such phenological changes actually affect population dynamics or extinction risk (Miller-Rushing et al. 2010). A huge body of literature on the ecological impacts of climate change has focused on shifting species distributions using various forms of bioclimatic envelope models, which assume that species ranges are governed solely or primarily by climate rather than by ecological interactions or historical factors. While there is evidence that many species are already shifting (or at least expanding) their ranges upward in latitude or elevation, there is also striking variation between species in these responses, calling into question how robust the predictions of bioclimatic models can actually be (e.g., Root et al. 2003, Parmesan 2006, Tingley and Beissinger 2009). Furthermore, most bioclimatic envelope approaches do not have evidence of actual shifts, but rather use current distributional data to infer future range changes. This strategy relies on numerous assumptions, many of which are likely to be biologically untenable. As such, these models may afford us little in the way of accurate predictions of net climate change impacts on natural communities (Schmitz et al. 2003, McMahon et al. 2011).
The purpose of this book is to delve deeper into the impact of climate change on populations and communities. We focus on terrestrial vertebrates across a range of ecosystems. While these species are clearly only a small subset of the world's biodiversity, they are the foci of many current and anticipated conservation plans, and also represent a suitably limited range of problems and considerations for a single book. Chapters herein assess details of climate change ecology such as demographic implications for individual populations, evolutionary responses, impacts on movement patterns, and alterations of species interactions. We also ask a critical question about the ecological impact of climate change: What can we do about it? The contributors to the book present a number of actual and potential actions by which conservationists and managers can counter or ameliorate the on-the-ground impacts of climate change. We focus specifically on the theme of resilience. While there is little that local wildlife managers can do about atmospheric CO2 or rising global temperatures, they do have the ability to influence the vulnerability of populations to climatic stressors. As mentioned above, many of the familiar conservation threats—exotic species, exploitation, pollution—act in synergy with climate change by reducing the resilience of native wildlife populations. Conversely, certain management actions can increase resilience; these tactics need to be identified, tested, and deployed on a large scale over the coming decades (also see Mawdsley et al. 2009).
Assessing the population-level effects of climate change has received too little attention. It is no longer sufficient to predict that species may shift their range boundaries due to climate change or alter their life histories in ways that may or may not be important. Instead, we need to explore the demographic details of wildlife responses to changing abiotic conditions, and thereby provide a mechanistic understanding of how survival, fecundity, and population dynamics are affected by climate change. Understanding how climate change affects the demography of individual populations affords us a much more accurate, precise, and nuanced understanding of how climate change potentially alters demographic rates and extinction risk (Botkin et al. 2007, Post et al. 2009, Doak and Morris 2010).
Finally, a demographic approach can provide useful solutions for ameliorating the impacts of climate change, generally by addressing concurrent stressors. A demographic focus is particularly useful if there are enough data to understand population dynamics across an entire region or throughout the whole distribution of a species. In these cases we can often identify "hot spots" where biological responses to climate change are particularly intense. One such analysis, of the dynamics of red deer (Cervus elaphus) and caribou (Rangifer tarandus) across the Northern Hemisphere, showed that different populations responded to temperature anomalies very idiosyncratically (Post et al. 2009). Thus, in contrast to the simplistic expectations of a bioclimatic envelope approach, we believe that there may be no way to predict the magnitude or even the direction of response to warming simply on the basis of a population's latitude or its position within the geographical range of the species.
We also emphasize the importance of understanding species inter actions in the context of climate change. Emerging evidence shows that altered species interactions may be more important to community structure than are direct changes in abiotic conditions. For example, the direct ecophysiological effects of declining snowpack on the recruitment of aspen (Populus tremuloides) in Yellowstone are outweighed by the fact that reduced snowpack increases the impact of herbivory by elk (Cervus elaphus; Brodie et al. 2012b). Likewise, plant community responses to climate change may depend much more on altered species interactions than on changed abiotic conditions (Suttle et al. 2007, Post and Pedersen 2008, Clark et al. 2011).
Despite the vast literature on the ecological impacts of climate change, the field as a whole has only recently begun to focus on the question of what we can do about it, in terms of integrating climate change impact directly into conservation plans (Dawson et al. 2011, Poiani et al. 2011). Strategies to address climate change are often described as falling into two categories: direct mitigation (reducing atmospheric carbon) or adaptation (ameliorating or adjusting to the effects). Some conservationists are opposed to climate change adaptation on the grounds that it may detract from the more important mitigation efforts (e.g., Orr 2009). We agree that our foremost strategy should be mitigation; we clearly need to immediately and drastically reduce humanity's carbon emissions. But we reject the notion that adaptation and mitigation are mutually exclusive. Though conservation resources are indeed finite and often scarce, they are seldom perfectly transferable; funds for adaptation and mitigation will likely come from separate sources. In other words, there is little reason to believe that a dollar not spent on adaptation will be available for mitigation, or vice versa. Climate change adaptation will become ever more critical over the coming decades. The time lag between emissions and atmospheric response ensures that our past discharges have not yet caught up with us; even if we were to stop emitting fossil fuels tomorrow, climatic warming would continue. It is therefore critical that we develop on-the-ground means of alleviating and adapting to the impact of climate change on species and ecosystems.
Many conservationists are also worried that concern about climate change has distracted attention and diverted resources away from more urgent conservation problems, to the detriment of overall biodiversity protection. A NewsFocus article in the prestigious international journal Science on efforts to conserve highly endangered giant freshwater fish in the Mekong River system of Southeast Asia reported, "Whether such measures will succeed in the long run will depend largely on community acceptance–and funding.... The Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Programme kicked in $50,000 for receivers and tags [research equipment] ... before the program was killed last year and its budget redirected for climate change research" (Stone 2007: 1688). This is but one example of a serious problem, where single-minded approaches to complex conservation issues may indeed create direct conflicts in resource use, to the detriment of overall conservation efforts. Yet we argue that climate change adaptation and biodiversity protection should go hand in hand (also see Hannah 2010, Hansen et al. 2010). Throughout this book, our contributing authors make the point that many of the ways in which we can alleviate climate change impacts are through the same tried-and-true strategies that conservation biologists have used for decades. Habitat connectivity, adjusting harvest levels, controlling invasive species, reintroducing top carnivores: these are all well-known conservation goals, but are also among our best tools for ameliorating the impacts of climate change.
As a positive example of human responses to climate change, witness the growing effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Tropical deforestation and degradation are responsible for an estimated 20% of global carbon emissions to the atmosphere (Myers 2007). In response, REDD protocols are being implemented by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conservation community has been ineffective at halting tropical deforestation to date; REDD could be our last chance. But it also stands to provide a huge gain in terms of wildlife habitat. This is especially true if, as some have proposed, REDD protocols were extended to not just protect trees but also seed-dispersing animals (Brodie and Gibbs 2009) and other strong interactors in forest communities (cf. Soulé et al. 2003, Soulé et al. 2005).
Indeed, it is a recurring theme throughout this book that addressing synergistic anthropogenic threats can facilitate climate change adaptation. In the best case, the threat of climate change will breathe new life into the promotion of specific, effective management methods that we already know work to stabilize or restore threatened populations. Many conservation scientists have noted that our influence with the public declined dramatically in recent years, until climate change grabbed society's attention. We now have a unique opportunity to reinvigorate the massive, landscape-level conservation efforts needed to sustain wildlife populations in today's changing world (Beier and Brost 2010, Hannah 2010).
However, conservation of some populations affected by climate change will require completely new approaches or novel uses of existing tools. Some examples include assisted colonization of species and the explicit incorporation of climate change effects into harvest models. Several of the chapters in this book assess such novel conservation strategies and how or whether they will work as effective responses to climate change. We stress that, as with all conservation strategies, climate change amelioration efforts should be very clear about their goals, and should explicitly account for and report uncertainty (Millar et al. 2007, Prato 2009).
Structure of the Book
This book is organized into three parts. The chapters in part 1 deal with specific issues in the assessment and prediction of climate change impacts on wildlife. Part I opens with an overview by Carney et al. of recent and future climatic changes, with an eye toward those changes that could particularly influence wildlife. Among the important points to emerge from this chapter are a discussion of climate-ecosystem feedback loops, and also the point that the ways in which humans respond to climatic changes may be as important for wildlife conservation as the actual physical changes themselves. This idea has not yet been widely discussed in the scientific literature (Brodie et al. 2012a), but is a hot topic in certain conservation and policy circles.
Next, Austin et al. discuss the potential for wildlife populations to respond to climate change via evolution and phenotypic plasticity. While many chapters later in the book address human impacts on wildlife resilience to climate change, this one looks at the resilience inherent in the populations themselves. The potential for evolutionary or plastic responses to climate change is ignored all too often in coarse-scale assessments of extinction risk in the face of climate change (Sgro et al. 2011). The next two chapters present novel modeling approaches for assessing climate change impacts on populations. Matthews et al. explicitly incorporate climate-induced changes in life-history strategies into structured population models. Matrix models are a powerful tool for conservation assessments (Morris and Doak 2002), and developing our understanding of how to use them in the context of climate change is an important advance. Fordham et al. then explore a critical impact of climate change: the facilitation of invasion by exotic species. They do so by developing a new quantitative framework that uses dynamic, spatially explicit meta-population models coupling climatic and demographic processes. Where data are available to build such models, they will prove a powerful tool for assessing climate change impacts on biological invasions and wildlife in general.
The final two chapters in part 1 provide ways to predict climate influences on wildlife. Paull and Johnson look at another important climate change impact, enhanced spread of diseases, and discuss a series of promising new tools for predicting these effects, including biophysical modeling, experimental manipulations of coupled direct and indirect climatic effects, and several technological innovations. Finally, Young et al. recognize that resources for conservation are scarce and that not all species can be individually assessed for their responses to climate change. Using cross-taxon analyses, they develop a system to predict taxa or life-history strategies that are consistently affected by climate change in similar ways. Their "climate change vulnerability index" provides managers with a useful tool for rapidly assessing susceptibility to climate change for vertebrates within a defined geographical area.
Part 2 looks at several case studies of climate change impacts on wildlife conservation across a variety of species and ecosystems. First, Owen-Smith and Ogutu assess the impacts of altered rainfall in savannah ecosystems of Africa—communities that harbor some of the densest and most diverse concentrations of large mammals on the planet. Many ungulates in these systems migrate seasonally to track water and forage; shifts in their migration routes to track altered precipitation patterns could be very difficult due to fences on park boundaries and intense human land use outside of protected areas. However, there is hope that if climate shifts are correctly predicted, these climate change impacts could be ameliorated through proactive expansion of parks, extension of conservation efforts beyond protected area boundaries, or the restoration of ecosystem heterogeneity within parks.
Excerpted from Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate Copyright © 2013 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 Climate Change and Wildlife Conservation Jedediah F. Brodie Eric Post Daniel F. Doak 1
Part 1 Assessing and Predicting Climate Change Impact on Wildlife
2 Recent and Future Climatic Change and Its Potential Implications for Species and Ecosystems Karen M. Carney Brian Lazar Charles Rodgers Diana R. Lane Russell Jones Scott Morlando Allison E. Ebbets 15
3 Natural Selection and Phenotypic Plasticity in Wildlife Adaptation to Climate Change James D. Austin Christine W. Miller Robert J. Fletcher Jr. 38
4 Demographic Approaches to Assessing Climate Change Impact: An Application to Pond-Breeding Frogs and Shifting Hydropatterns John H. Matthews W. Chris Funk Cameron K. Ghalambor 58
5 Modeling Range Shifts for Invasive Vertebrates in Response to Climate Change DamienA. Fordham H. Resit Akçakaya Miguel Araújo Barry W. Brook 86
6 Can We Predict Climate-Driven Changes to Disease Dynamics? Applications for Theory and Management in the Face of Uncertainty Sara H. Paull Pieter T.J. Johnson 109
7 Rapid Assessment of Plant and Animal Vulnerability to Climate Change Bruce E. Young Kimberly R. Hall Elizabeth Byers Kelly Gravuer Geoff Hammerson Alan Redder Kristin Szabo 129
Part 2 Case Studies of Climatic Effects on Wildlife Conservation
8 Changing Rainfall and Obstructed Movements: Impact on African Ungulates Norman Owen-Smith Joseph O. Ogata 153
9 Ecological Effects of Climate Change on European Reptiles Jean François Le Galliard Manuel Massot Jean-Pierre Baron Jean Clobert 179
10 Arctic Shorebirds: Conservation of a Moving Target in Changing Times Steve Zack Joe Liebezeit 204
11 Island Species with Nowhere to Go Lisa Manne 226
12 Retreat of the American Pika: Up the Mountain or into the Void? Chris Ray ErikBeever Scott Loarie 245
13 Sensitivity of High Arctic Caribou Population Dynamics to Changes in the Frequency of Extreme Weather Events Joerg Tews Rebecca Jeppesen Carolyn Callaghan 271
Part 3 Promoting Resilience: Wildlife Management in the Face of Climate Change
14 Harvest Models for Changing Environments Mark S. Boyce Kyle Knopff Joseph Northrup Justin Pitt Liv S. Vors 293
15 From Connect-the-Dots to Dynamic Networks: Maintaining and Enhancing Connectivity as a Strategy to Address Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife Molly S. Cross Jodi A. Hilty Gary M. Tabor Joshua J. Lawler Lisa J. Graumlich Joel Berger 307
16 Restoring Predators as a Hedge against Climate Change Chris C. Wilmers Chris T. Darimont Mark Hebblewhite 330
17 Assisted Colonization of Wildlife Species at Risk from Climate Change Viorel D. Popescu Malcolm L. Hunter 347
18 The Integration of Forest Science and Climate Change Policy to Safeguard Biodiversity in a Changing Climate Nicholas Blay Michael Dombeck 369
19 What to Expect and How to Plan for Wildlife Conservation in the Face of Climate Change Daniel F. Doak Jedediah F. Brodie Eric S. Post 387
Color plates follow page 152.