Planning for the Maintenance of Floristic Diversity in the Face of Land Cover and Climate Change
Habitat loss and climate change are primary drivers of global biodiversity loss. Species will need to track changing environmental conditions through fragmented and transformed landscapes such as KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Landscape connectivity is an important tool for maintaining resilience to global change. We develop a coarse-grained connectivity map between protected areas to aid decision-making for implementing corridors to maintain floristic diversity in the face of global change. The spatial location of corridors was prioritised using a biological underpinning of floristic composition that incorporated high beta diversity regions, important plant areas, climate refugia, and aligned to major climatic gradients driving floristic pattern. We used Linkage Mapper to develop the connectivity network. The resistance layer was based on land-cover categories with natural areas discounted according to their contribution towards meeting the biological objectives. Three corridor maps were developed; a conservative option for meeting minimum corridor requirements, an optimal option for meeting a target amount of 50% of the landscape and an option including linkages in highly transformed areas. The importance of various protected areas and critical linkages in maintaining landscape connectivity are discussed, disconnected protected areas and pinch points identified where the loss of small areas could compromise landscape connectivity. This framework is suggested as a way to conserve floristic diversity into the future and is recommended as an approach for other global connectivity initiatives. A lack of implementation of corridors will lead to further habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in further risk to plant diversity.