Biodiversity Indicators Show Climate Change Will Alter Vegetation in Parks and Protected Areas
Received: 26 February 2013 / Revised: 6 March 2013 / Accepted: 6 May 2013 / Published: 16 May 2013
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While multifaceted, a chief aim when designating parks and protected areas is to support the preservation of biological diversity, in part, through representing and conserving the full range of landscape conditions observed throughout a representative area. Parks and protected areas are, however,
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While multifaceted, a chief aim when designating parks and protected areas is to support the preservation of biological diversity, in part, through representing and conserving the full range of landscape conditions observed throughout a representative area. Parks and protected areas are, however, typically developed using a static interpretation of current biodiversity and landscape conditions. The observed and potential climate change impacts to biodiversity have created a need to also contemplate how parks and protected areas will respond to climate change and how these areas will represent the future range of landscape conditions. To assess change in biodiversity, broad-scale ecosystem information can be sourced from indirect remotely sensed indicators. Quantifying biodiversity through indirect indicators allows characterization of inter-relationships between climate and biodiversity. Such characterizations support the assessment of possible implications of climatic change, as the indicators can be generated using modeled forecasts of future climatic conditions. In this paper we model and map impacts of climate change on British Columbia’s parks and protected areas by quantifying change in a number of remotely sensed indicators of biodiversity. These indicators are based on the measured amount of incoming solar energy used by vegetation and map the overall annual energy utilization, variability (seasonality), and latent or baseline energy. We compare current conditions represented by parks and protected areas, to those forecasted in the year 2065. Our results indicate that parks and protected areas are forecasted to become more productive and less seasonal, due to increased vegetation productivity in higher elevation environments. While increased vegetation productivity may be beneficial for biodiversity overall, these changes will be particularly problematic for sensitive and specialist species. Future gaps in vegetation conditions protected by parks and protected areas are observed in the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and the central interior region of British Columbia. Protected areas along the Coast Mountains, Vancouver Island highlands, and the Rocky Mountains show the greatest levels of change in the biodiversity indicators, including decreasing seasonality, with the Mountain Hemlock ecozone most at risk. Examples of large parks that are predicted to experience rapid change in vegetation characteristics include Strathcona, Garabaldi, and Kitlope. Our maps of future spatial distributions of indirect biodiversity indicators fill a gap in information products available for adaptive parks management and provide an opportunity for dialogue and further research on the use of future scenarios of landscape conditions in conservation planning.