A new approach can provide guidance for the identification and protection of lands that may facilitate the conservation of species in the face of climate change. Geophysical diversity, including both topography and soils, is used as a surrogate for species diversity and adaptive capacity. Areas with high geophysical diversity are expected to contain refugia that permit species adaptation and radiation as climate changes. A small percentage of geophysically diverse lands in the Central Basin and Range, Chihuahuan Desert, and Wasatch and Uinta Mountains are part of the existing protected lands network.
Many species and natural systems are already responding to global change, as species move outside their historical ranges and new ecological communities form. Scientists are predicting these changes will accelerate in the future. To cope with these changes, this paper focuses on the adaptive capacity of public agencies and nonprofits responsible for land management and conservation in the United States. The paper concludes these organizations need to adapt their organizational structures and strategies like the organisms they seek to protect.
With funding from the SW CSC, research was conducted to identify Bureau of Land Management administered roadless lands with relatively high conservation values in 11 contiguous western states. These areas possessed important ecological indicators of high biodiversity, resilience to climate change, and landscape connectivity. This research also identified 117 potential conservation priority areas, primarily located in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada. Managers and stakeholders can use these results to guide landscape planning and conservation efforts.