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Assessing vulnerability of species of conservation concern

Date: April 14, 2015

Researchers inform conservation, restoration, and population recovery by assessing vulnerability of species of conservation concern to anthropogenic and climate-driven changes in habitat area and connectivity across the western United States

Photograph of a wolverine inspecting a winter bait station
Assessing vulnerability of species of conservation concern.
Climate change is having dramatic impacts on the distribution and population connectivity of wildlife species the western United States. Impacts include large range shifts, reorganization of animal communities, and potentially regional extinction.

This project is combining vast sampling of species occurrence and genetic characteristics with sophisticated spatial modeling of gene flow, connectivity, and adaptive variation. The project has provided several important tools and applications to managers, including the development of sophisticated tools for the prediction of population connectivity (e.g., Unicor). These tools can be applied to produce spatially explicit, fine-scale, broad-extent, quantitative predictions of changes in species distribution, and population connectivity for several wildlife species of conservation concern across the full extent of the western United States.

These products have enabled the identification of which populations of which species might:

  1. have the largest range shift,
  2. have limited ability to migrate in response to climate change due to barriers to dispersal,
  3. have the potentially largest or smallest ability to respond to climate change through adaptation, and
  4. have the highest likelihood of benefiting from assisted migration.

This research will benefit society by providing detailed and specific predictions of the effects of climate change on wildlife across a vast area of the United States, and it can inform development of optimized adaptation strategies to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on forest ecosystems.

Featured Publications

Wasserman, Tzeidle N. ; Cushman, Samuel A. ; Wallin, David O. ; Hayden, Jim , 2012
Cushman, Samuel A. ; Wasserman, Tzeidle N. ; McGarigal, Kevin , 2011
Cushman, Samuel A. ; Landguth, Erin L. ; Flather, Curtis H. , 2010
Wasserman, Tzeidle N. ; Cushman, Samuel A. ; Schwartz, Michael K. ; Wallin, David O. , 2010

Principal Investigators: 
Forest Service Partners: 
Interior West Region, Forest Inventory and Analysis Program
Northern Region
External Partners: 
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Idaho Department of Lands
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kalispell Tribe
Colville Federated Tribes