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Putting Climate Adaptation on the Map: Developing Spatial Management Strategies for Whitebark Pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Abstract

Natural resource managers face the need to develop strategies to adapt to projected future climates. Few existing climate adaptation frameworks prescribe where to place management actions to be most effective under anticipated future climate conditions. We developed an approach to spatially allocate climate adaptation actions and applied the method to whitebark pine (WBP; Pinus albicaulis) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). WBP is expected to be vulnerable to climate-mediated shifts in suitable habitat, pests, pathogens, and fire. We spatially prioritized management actions aimed at mitigating climate impacts to WBP under two management strategies: (1) current management and (2) climate-informed management. The current strategy reflected management actions permissible under existing policy and access constraints. Our goal was to understand how consideration of climate might alter the placement of management actions, so the climate-informed strategies did not include these constraints. The spatial distribution of actions differed among the current and climate-informed management strategies, with 33–60% more wilderness area prioritized for action under climate-informed management. High priority areas for implementing management actions include the 1–8% of the GYE where current and climate-informed management agreed, since this is where actions are most likely to be successful in the long-term and where current management permits implementation. Areas where climate-informed strategies agreed with one another but not with current management (6–22% of the GYE) are potential locations for experimental testing of management actions. Our method for spatial climate adaptation planning is applicable to any species for which information regarding climate vulnerability and climate-mediated risk factors is available.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s Whitebark Pine Subcommittee for providing data, guidance on development of our spatial prioritization, and feedback on both mapping efforts as well as early manuscript drafts. Ellen Jungck, the chair of the Subcommittee, was especially helpful in coordinating meeting and information sharing with the Subcommittee. Tony Chang and Nate Piekielek provided spatial predictions of climate suitability for whitebark pine and other tree species in the GYE. Tony Chang, additionally, provided assistance with developing analysis methods. Linda Phillips assisted with analysis of land classes within whitebark pine’s current distribution. Comments by two anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. Funding was provided by the North Central Climate Sciences Center, the Montana NSF EPSCoR Initiative, and the Great Northern Conservation Cooperative (F15AC01086).

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Correspondence to Kathryn B. Ireland.

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Ireland, K.B., Hansen, A.J., Keane, R.E. et al. Putting Climate Adaptation on the Map: Developing Spatial Management Strategies for Whitebark Pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Environmental Management 61, 981–1001 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-018-1029-2

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Keywords

  • Climate adaptation
  • Spatially explicit
  • Management
  • Whitebark pine
  • Greater Yellowstone