Habitat networks and food security: promoting species range shift under climate change depends on life history and the dynamics of land use choices
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- Gimona, A., Poggio, L., Polhill, J.G. et al. Landscape Ecol (2015) 30: 771. doi:10.1007/s10980-015-0158-8
Habitat networks are often advocated as an effective measure for adaptation to climate change, while intensification of land use is a possible response to threats to food security.
We examined the question of whether woodland networks are likely to help promote species range shift, and tried to disentangle the influence of land use change, as mediated by land managers’ choices, climate change and dispersal ability.
Using Scotland as the study area, we considered species types with different dispersal abilities and, with the help of an Agent-Based Model, constructed four stylised scenarios in with different levels of woodland planting and different land managers’ choices. We then modelled range expansion of broadleaved woodland species having increasing dispersal abilities.
Woodland networks could help range shift for species with dispersal distance (DD) of more than 2 km, but would be no panacea if rapid range shift were needed to preserve population viability. In particular, land use choices influenced most the movements of species with DD between 2 and 5 km. Therefore for such species potential disequilibrium between climate and distribution can be mitigated by increasing stepping stones thus improving landscape permeability to movement. Species that had DD ≤2 km moved very slowly in our simulations, and this is consistent with paleo-ecological estimates.
For populations of species with short DD that might need to shift their distribution to remain viable, translocation could be a more effective conservation option than creating woodland networks.