Rating riverside corridors—the 'escape routes' for animals under climate change

phys.org | 2/9/2019 | Staff
marikamarika (Posted by) Level 3
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Under climate change, plants and animals will shift their habitats to track the conditions they are adapted for. As they do, the lands surrounding rivers and streams offer natural migration routes that will take on a new importance as temperatures rise.

An open-access study led by the University of Washington pinpoints which riverside routes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana will be the most important for animals trying to navigate a changing climate. The study was published this fall in PLOS ONE.

Corridor - Network - Movement - Author - Meade

"This corridor network is already there, and it's already important for animal movement," said lead author Meade Krosby, a scientist in the UW's Climate Impacts Group. "Under climate change these will become 'superhighways' for animals that are seeking new places to live. We've identified ones that could be priorities for conservation and restoration."

Riparian areas—areas of habitat along the banks of rivers and streams—are known to be used by bears, coyotes, wolves, deer, mountain lions and other large mammals. But these regions could also benefit smaller mammals, like beavers and marmots, and even insects, birds and other species looking for cooler, moister terrain as conditions become less habitable.

Areas - Animals - Refuge - Warmer - Drier

"We aren't the first to realize that riparian areas are likely to be really important for animals seeking refuge from warmer or drier conditions, or for connecting fragmented habitats under climate change," Krosby said. "But we hadn't seen anybody identify which riparian areas would be particularly valuable in the future."

The authors developed a ranking system for riparian areas and applied it to the Northwest, creating a general technique that could be applied elsewhere. They rated the land surrounding rivers and streams for various features that would help animals on the move: width; amount of shade; tree cover; connection across temperature gradients; and general condition of the landscape.

Results - Highest-quality - Routes

Results show that the highest-quality routes in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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