Ongoing climate change may undermine the effectiveness of protected area networks in preserving the set of biotic components and ecological processes they harbor, thereby jeopardizing their conservation capacity into the future. Metrics of climate change, particularly rates and spatial patterns of climatic alteration, can help assess potential threats. Here, we perform a continent-wide climate change vulnerability assessment whereby we compare the baseline climate of the protected area network in North America (Canada, United States, Mexico - NAM) to the projected end-of-century climate (2071-2100). We estimated the projected pace at which climatic conditions may redistribute across NAM (i.e., climate velocity), and identified future nearest climate analogs to quantify patterns of climate relocation within, among, and outside protected areas. Also, we interpret climatic relocation patterns in terms of associated land-cover types. Our analysis suggests that the conservation capacity of the NAM protection network is likely to be severely compromised by a changing climate. The majority of protected areas (~80%) might be exposed to high rates of climate displacement that could promote important shifts in species abundance or distribution. A small fraction of protected areas (<10%) could be critical for future conservation plans, as they will host climates that represent analogs of conditions currently characterizing almost a fifth of the protected areas across NAM. However, the majority of nearest climatic analogs for protected areas are in nonprotected locations. Therefore, unprotected landscapes could pose additional threats, beyond climate forcing itself, as sensitive biota may have to migrate farther than what is prescribed by the climate velocity to reach a protected area destination. To mitigate future threats to the conservation capacity of the NAM protected area network, conservation plans will need to capitalize on opportunities provided by the existing availability of natural land-cover types outside the current network of NAM protected areas.
Batllori, Enric; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Parks, Sean A.; Moritz, Max A.; Miller, Carol. 2017. Potential relocation of climatic environments suggests high rates of climate displacement within the North American protection network. Global Change Biology. 2017: 1-12.