Using topographic geodiversity to connect conservation lands in the Central Yukon, Alaska
Alaskan landscapes are changing due to climate change impacts. Maintaining or restoring landscape connectivity is a widely suggested climate change adaptation strategy because species are shifting their distributions to align with emerging conditions. Natural resource managers in Alaska have an opportunity to proactively design connected landscapes as infrastructure networks and economic development continue to increase in the state.
We provide an example of strategic, multijurisdictional planning to maintain landscape connectivity at a large spatial scale.
We use geodiversity to model climate-resilient landscape linkages between conservation lands within and adjacent to a 59-million-acre planning area.
The resulting landscape linkage design consists of as little as 1% of the planning area, but can connect over 64 million acres of conservation land allowing the Bureau of Land Management to leverage the current land designations to maximize the conservation value of the entire landscape.
Maintaining landscape connectivity is above and beyond the mandates and responsibilities of a single organization or land owner. Bridging institutions and partnerships, such as the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative, can facilitate the coordination needed for this type of multi-jurisdictional planning effort. The opportunity to manage proactively, rather than waiting for system degradation and then responding reactively, should not be undervalued. The implementation of this work will serve as a model for other relatively intact systems and moreover showcases the potential of twenty-first century models of conservation and sustainability.
KeywordsConnectivity Conserving nature’s stage Climate change Adaptation Alaska
We would like to thank B. Brost and J. Jenness for providing technical support and advice needed to apply their methods. We acknowledge the Steering Committee members and organizations that make up the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative (nwblcc.org) and thank them for their enthusiasm for collaboration and for adopting landscape ecology principles into on-the-ground landscape conservation actions. A list of Steering Committee organizations is at nwblcc.org. We would also like to thank K. Miller, T. Haby, and M. Ethun for consultation on the treatment of landscape linkages in the planning process, and the BLM for considering these linkages in developing the Central Yukon RMP. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management.
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