Topography and human pressure in mountain ranges alter expected species responses to climate change
- Author(s): Elsen, Paul R
- Monahan, William B
- Merenlender, Adina M
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15881-x
Climate change is leading to widespread elevational shifts thought to increase species extinction risk in mountains. We integrate digital elevation models with a metric of human pressure to examine changes in the amount of intact land area available for species undergoing elevational range shifts in all major mountain ranges globally (n = 1010). Nearly 60% of mountainous area is under intense human pressure, predominantly at low elevations and mountain bases. Consequently, upslope range shifts generally resulted in modeled species at lower elevations expanding into areas of lower human pressure and, due to complex topography, encountering more intact land area relative to their starting position. Such gains were often attenuated at high elevations as land-use constraints diminished and topographic constraints increased. Integrating patterns of topography and human pressure is essential for accurate species vulnerability assessments under climate change, as priorities for protecting, connecting, and restoring mountain landscapes may otherwise be misguided.