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Biodiversity & Climate Change

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Patterns of biodiversity are largely determined by patterns of climate draped over the earth’s geologic surface. Every species lives within a range of temperature and precipitation values which describe its environmental niche. Climate change is altering “normal” ranges of temperature and precipitation, leaving species with three choices: adapt to the new environmental conditions, move with their shifting ranges, or go extinct.

Our current conservation strategy is based on protected areas within static boundaries. As plants and animals attempt to track their preferred environmental conditions, we need to establish landscape-scale corridors among existing protected areas. Conserving biodiversity in a climate-altered world requires using the best available science to project species future ranges.

CBRI is working with collaborators in academia, conservation organizations and government to apply museum biodiversity data and species distribution modeling in support of the design and implementation of connectivity corridors. Learn more about our work on The Wildlands Project SPINE of the Continent Initiative, Patagonia ’s “Freedom to Roam” campaign, and the Western Governor 's Association"Wildlife Corridors Initiative".

Biodiversity & Climate Change

The "Spine of the Continent" proposed wildlife corridor linking protected areas from Canada to Mexico

The Wildlands Project SPINE of the Continent Initiative

Founded by respected conservation biologist Dr. Michael Soulé, The Wildlands Project is “networks of people protecting networks of land”. Their conservation strategy is based on the implementation of wildlife ‘mega-linkages’, which are continental-scale pathways that connect natural habitats together. The SPINE of the continent initiative envisions a vast connected corridor of wild lands extending from northern Mexico to Canada . In order to make the SPINE wildlife megalinkage a reality, The Wildlands Project and their many regional partners must raise public awareness of the need for connected wildlands.

Through a grant from The Threshold Foundation, CBRI is modeling current and future distributions of several iconic species inhabiting the SPINE, such as the jaguar, the wolverine and the Canadian lynx. Biodiversity records from natural history museum collections provide one important source of data for this work. The future range maps clearly show that climate change may dramatically shift these and other species ranges, strengthening the argument for this visionary approach to conservation.



Predicted distribution of Wolverine © CBRI

Wolverine (Gulo gulo) ©Daniel J. Cox, Natural Exposures Inc.

Patagonia’s “Freedom to Roam” Campaign

At the beginning of 2008, Patagonia, Inc. launched their newest environmental initiative, the Freedom to Roam campaign. Recognizing that for many species, “to roam is to survive”, this long-term initiative will bring together private sector companies, conservation organizations and recreation groups to support the establishment of continental migration wildways between protected areas.

To help demonstrate the importance of connecting protected areas, CBRI is mapping and modeling the shifting distributions of several species of North American animals. With support from the Patagonia Environmental Grants Program, these science-based projections will be used by the Freedom to Roam coalition to communicate the critical need for connectivity corridors to confront shifting habitats caused by a warming planet.



Western Governor's Association "Corridor Initiative"

The Western Governor’s Association is comprised of Governors of the 19 western states and 3 U.S. Flag Pacific Islands. The association develops policy and carries out programs in the areas of natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and state governance.

In February 2007, the Western Governors’ unanimously approved Policy Resolution 07-01, the Wildlife Corridors Initiative, to “identify key wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West and make recommendations on needed policy options and tools for preserving those landscapes.”

CBRI director Dr. Healy Hamilton is serving as an invited member of the Corridor Initiative’s Climate Change Working Group, one of five working groups established to provide supporting information for the WGA corridors initiative. The Climate Change Working Group will make scientific and policy recommendations to mitigate the projected impacts of climate change on wildlife corridors and critical habitat. The working group draft report will be released to the public on April 1 st, 2008.



Protecting Wildlife Migration Corridors and Crucial Wildlife Habitat in the West (22kb)