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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Using historic and contemporary data to inform conservation responses to climate change

  • Author(s): Skikne, Sarah
  • Advisor(s): Zavaleta, Erika
  • et al.

In the face of inevitable and increasing impacts of climate change, the conservation field must adapt its practices. To address this need, my dissertation utilizes untapped historic and contemporary data as empirical evidence to understand climate impacts and potential conservation responses. In my first chapter, I examine the demographic processes underlying range shifts in a California desert ecosystem, using re-photography and unique data extraction methods to track the fate of individual plants over ~35 years. I document uphill range shifts and demonstrate that varying recruitment and survival underlie these patterns in co-occurring species. In my second chapter, I synthesize data from historic avian translocations to uncover lessons relevant to proposals for longer-distance translocations and assisted colonization as potential adaptation tools. I find that post-translocation survival is higher for species with larger body sizes and brain residuals, and for translocations over shorter distances; these results suggest the types of species and sites that might be most feasible for translocation efforts in response to climate change. Finally, in my third chapter, I assess adaptation project proposals from U.S. conservation non-profits in order to determine gaps and strengths in this emerging field. I find that proposed projects are focused on fish, river ecosystems, and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, highlighting the need for expansion of the current taxonomic, ecosystem and geographic foci of emerging climate adaptation efforts. Together, these chapters demonstrate the use of historic and contemporary data as fruitful paths for informing our response to climate change in order to promote species persistence and ecosystem integrity.

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