Assessing vulnerable and expanding vegetation stands and species in the San Francisco Bay Area for conservation management under climate change
Abstract:The distribution of suitable climatic areas for species and vegetation types is expected to shift due to ongoing climate change. While the pace at which current distributions will shift is hard to quantify, predictions of where climatically suitable areas will be in the future can allow us to map 1) areas currently occupied by a species or vegetation type unlikely to persist through the end of this century (vulnerable stands), 2) areas likely to do better in the future and serve as nuclei for population expansion (expanding stands), and 3) areas likely to act as climate refugia (persisting stands).
We quantified the vulnerability of 27 individual plant species and 27 vegetation types in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the conservation importance, vulnerability, and resilience of selected management sites for climate change resilient conservation. To this end, we developed California-wide models of species and vegetation distributions using climate data from the 2014 California Basin Characterization Model at a 270 m resolution, projected to 18 different end-of century climate change scenarios. Combining these distribution models with high resolution maps of current vegetation, we were able to map projected vulnerable, expanding, and persisting stands within the Bay Area.
We show that vegetation and species are expected to shift considerably within the study region over the next decades; although we also identify refugia potentially able to offset some of the negative impacts of climate change. We discuss the implications for managers that wish to incorporate climate change in conservation decisions, in particular related to choosing species for restoration, identifying areas to collect seeds for restoration, and preparing for expected major vegetation changes. Our evaluation of individual management sites highlights the need for stronger coordination of efforts across sites to prioritize monitoring and protection of species whose ranges are contracting elsewhere.
Finally, we present and discuss novel ways in visualizing and communicating condensed predictions and their uncertainty to land managers and challenges inherent. This work is part of the Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaborative, committed to developing a scientific basis for climate adaptation conservation strategies.