Woodland networks in a changing climate: Threats from land use change

Alessandro Gimona, Laura Poggio, Iain Brown, Marie Castellazzi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Landscape adaptation to climate change requires policies that facilitate species dispersal, to counteract the effects of fragmentation and allow tracking of a species' 'climatic niche'. Expanding existing ecological networks is often proposed as a measure to maintain functional connectivity for forest species in multi-functional landscapes.In the next decades, however, such networks will be threatened by climate change through its effects on land use change, as global drivers are likely to have an increasing influence on national land use policy. Evaluation of indirect effects of climate change, on habitat networks, mediated by land use change, is therefore needed. We used an approach integrating climate, soil properties, and landscape resistance to dispersal, the latter estimated using Circuit Theory, to evaluate the vulnerability to land use change of forest habitat networks in Scotland, given two scenarios of land use change. In Scotland a combination of high food prices and improved land capability for agriculture could lead to decreased landscape connectivity for woodland species, especially in the East and South, with potentially large trade-offs between agriculture and woodland connectivity in the case of loss of woodland on prime agricultural land. We suggest that planning of ecological networks needs to account for future land use change. Adaptation and mitigation strategies across multiple sectors should be reconciled. Woodland networks will benefit from minimising creation of new woodlands on future prime agricultural land, the protection of existing patches, and the creation of wide-scale dispersal pathways along climatic gradients, i.e. in the N-S and E-W directions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)93-102
    Number of pages10
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume149
    Issue number1
    Early online date19 Apr 2012
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2012

    Keywords

    • Conservation incentives
    • Food security
    • Global change
    • Habitat networks
    • Land managers
    • Least-cost path

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