Riparian Climate-corridors: Identifying Priority Areas for Conservation in a Changing Climate


Krosby, M., Norheim, R., Theobald, D. M., and B. H. McRae. 2014. Riparian Climate-corridors: Identifying Priority Areas for Conservation in a Changing Climate. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle.


Protecting and restoring ecological connectivity is a leading climate adaptation strategy for
biodiversity conservation (Heller & Zavaleta 2009, Lawler 2009), because species are expected
to have difficulty tracking shifting climates across fragmented landscapes (Thomas et al. 2004).
Connectivity conservation is thus a primary focus of numerous large-scale climate adaptation
initiatives (e.g., U.S. Department of Interior’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives), and a core
strategy of many federal climate adaptation plans (NPS 2010, USFS 2011, USFWS 2010). This
has led to a growing need for approaches that identify priority areas for connectivity
conservation in a changing climate.

To address the need for a rigorous approach to identify priority riparian areas for climate
adaptation, we completed a novel, fine-resolution (90m) analysis that identifies potential riparian
areas that span large temperature gradients, have high levels of canopy cover, are relatively wide,
have low solar insolation, and low levels of human modification – characteristics expected to
enhance their ability to facilitate climate-driven range shifts and provide micro-climatic refugia
from warming. Because priority areas are likely to vary by the scale of analysis, and because
scales of climate-induced range shifts and micro-climatic refugia are likely to vary among
species and over time, we employed an approach that integrates results across scales, from local
watersheds to the entire Pacific Northwest, USA.