Climate change and plant dispersal along corridors in fragmented landscapes of Mesoamerica
Imbach Bartol, Pablo A.
Molina, Luis G.
Leadley, Paul W.
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Climate change is a threat to biodiversity, and adaptation measures should be considered in biodiversity conservation planning. Protected areas (PA) are expected to be impacted by climate change and improving their connectivity with biological corridors (BC) has been proposed as a potential adaptation measure, although assessing its effectiveness remains a challenge. In Mesoamerica, efforts to preserve the biodiversity have led to the creation of a regional network of PA and, more recently, BC. This study evaluates the role of BC for facilitating plant dispersal between PA under climate change in Mesoamerica. A spatially explicit dynamic model (cellular automaton) was developed to simulate species dispersal under different climate and conservation policy scenarios. Plant functional types (PFT) were defined based on a range of dispersal rates and vegetation types to represent the diversity of species in the region. The impacts of climate change on PA and the role of BC for dispersal were assessed spatially. Results show that most impacted PA are those with low altitudinal range in hot, dry, or high latitude areas. PA with low altitudinal range in high cool areas benefit the most from corridors. The most important corridors cover larger areas and have high altitude gradients. Only the fastest PFT can keep up with the expected change in climate and benefit from corridors for dispersal. We conclude that the spatial assessment of the vulnerability of PA and the role of corridors in facilitating dispersal can help conservation planning under a changing climate.