Research Article

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 187-200

First online:

Between a rock and a hard place: the impacts of climate change and housing development on breeding birds in California

  • Dennis JongsomjitAffiliated withPRBO Conservation Science Email author 
  • , Diana StralbergAffiliated withPRBO Conservation ScienceDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
  • , Thomas GardaliAffiliated withPRBO Conservation Science
  • , Leonardo SalasAffiliated withPRBO Conservation Science
  • , John WiensAffiliated withPRBO Conservation ScienceSchool of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Although the effects of climate change on species distributions have received considerable attention, land-use change continues to threaten wildlife by contributing to habitat loss and degradation. We compared projected spatial impacts of climate change and housing development across a range of housing densities on California’s birds to evaluate the relative potential impacts of each. We used species-distribution models in concert with current and future climate projections and spatially explicit housing-development density projections in California. We compared their potential influence on the distributions of 64 focal bird species representing six major vegetation communities. Averaged across GCMs, species responding positively to climate change were projected to gain 253,890 km2 and species responding negatively were projected to lose 335,640 km2. Development accounted for 32 % of the overall reductions in projected species distributions. In terms of land area, suburban and exurban development accounted for the largest portion of land-use impacts on species’ distributions. Areas in which climatic suitability and housing density were both projected to increase were concentrated along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and areas of the north coast. Areas of decreasing climatic suitability and increasing housing density were largely concentrated within the Central Valley. Our analyses suggest that the cumulative effects of future housing development and climate change will be large for many bird species, and that some species projected to expand their distributions with climate change may actually lose ground to development. This suggests that a key climate change adaptation strategy will be to minimize the impacts of housing development. To do this effectively, comprehensive policies to guide land use decisions are needed at the broader scales of climate change.


California Exurban development Generalized additive models Land-use change Species distribution models Urbanization