Adapting landscapes to climate change: examples of climate-proof ecosystem networks and priority adaptation zones

1. Climate change has been inducing range shifts for many species as they follow their suitable
climate space and further shifts are projected. Whether species will be able to colonize regions where
climate conditions become suitable, so-called ‘new climate space’, depends on species traits and
habitat fragmentation.
2. By combining bioclimate envelope models with dispersal models, we identified areas where the
spatial cohesion of the ecosystem pattern is expected to be insufficient to allow colonization of new
climate space.
3. For each of three ecosystem types, three species were selected that showed a shift in suitable
climate space and differed in habitat fragmentation sensitivity.
4. For the 2020 and 2050 time slices, the amount of climatically suitable habitat in northwest
Europe diminished for all studied species. Additionally, significant portions of new suitable habitat
could not be colonized because of isolation. Together, this will result in a decline in the amount of
suitable habitat protected in Natura 2000 sites.
5. We develop several adaptation strategies to combat this problem: (i) link isolated habitat that is
within a new suitable climate zone to the nearest climate-proof network; (ii) increase colonizing
capacity in the overlap zone, the part of a network that remains suitable in successive time frames;
(iii) optimize sustainable networks in climate refugia, the part of a species’ range where the climate
remains stable.
6. Synthesis and applications. Following the method described in this study, we can identify those
sites across Europe where ecosystem patterns are not cohesive enough to accommodate species’
responses to climate change. The best locations for climate corridors where improving connectivity
is most urgent and potential gain is highest can then be pinpointed.