Improving the interpretability of climate landscape metrics: An ecological risk analysis of Japan's Marine Protected Areas

elvira.poloczanska [ at ]


Conservation efforts strive to protect significant swaths of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems from a range of threats. As climate change becomes an increasing concern, these efforts must take into account how resilient-protected spaces will be in the face of future drivers of change such as warming temperatures. Climate landscape metrics, which signal the spatial magnitude and direction of climate change, support a convenient initial assessment of potential threats to and opportunities within ecosystems to inform conservation and policy efforts where biological data are not available. However, inference of risk from purely physical climatic changes is difficult unless set in a meaningful ecological context. Here, we aim to establish this context using historical climatic variability, as a proxy for local adaptation by resident biota, to identify areas where current local climate conditions will remain extant and future regional climate analogues will emerge. This information is then related to the processes governing species’ climate-driven range edge dynamics, differentiating changes in local climate conditions as promoters of species range contractions from those in neighbouring locations facilitating range expansions. We applied this approach to assess the future climatic stability and connectivity of Japanese waters and its network of marine protected areas (MPAs). We find 88% of Japanese waters transitioning to climates outside their historical variability bounds by 2035, resulting in large reductions in the amount of available climatic space potentially promoting widespread range contractions and expansions. Areas of high connectivity, where shifting climates converge, are present along sections of the coast facilitated by the strong latitudinal gradient of the Japanese archipelago and its ocean current system. While these areas overlap significantly with areas currently under significant anthropogenic pressures, they also include much of the MPA network that may provide stepping-stone protection for species that must shift their distribution because of climate change.

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DOI 10.1111/gcb.13665

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García Molinos, J. , Takao, S. , Kumagai, N. H. , Poloczanska, E. S. , Burrows, M. T. , Fujii, M. and Yamano, H. (2017): Improving the interpretability of climate landscape metrics: An ecological risk analysis of Japan's Marine Protected Areas , Global Change Biology . doi: 10.1111/gcb.13665

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