Identifying and enhancing habitat for large ungulates in the western United States has become an increased priority for many state and federal agencies due to the Department of the Interior’s Secretarial Order 3362.
Pronghorn, which are found across shrublands and grasslands of the west, may be threatened by 1) decreasing habitat due to declining sagebrush vegetation, 2) human development like fences, roads, and other activities that limit access to important forage, and 3) climate change. Given the sensitivity of pronghorn to these threats, estimating current and future habitat suitability and connectivity is important to inform successful long-term management of this species.
We used a variety of data types (GPS collar, aerial surveys, observation locations) to map habitat and connectivity for pronghorn in the Great Basin ecoregion of the United States for the present day and the years 2050 and 2070. To model habitat suitability and connectivity, we combined the pronghorn data with vegetation, topographic, soil, temperature, and precipitation data across the study area. We then projected future habitat models by incorporating projections of vegetation, temperature, and precipitation estimated with two different carbon emissions scenarios, a moderate and a high scenario.
We used the habitat suitability maps to model habitat connectivity across the landscape. We then calculated changes in habitat and connectivity through time and identified areas of the pronghorn habitat network that were resilient to climate and land use change. We also calculated the area of these habitat networks that are protected.