finding 19.3 : increased-landscape-fragmentation

Landscape fragmentation is increasing, for example, in the context of energy development activities in the northern Great Plains. A highly fragmented landscape will hinder adaptation of species when climate change alters habitat composition and timing of plant development cycles.

This finding is from chapter 19 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: A central component of the assessment process was the Great Plains Regional Climate assessment workshop that was held in August 2011 in Denver, CO, with approximately 40 attendees. The workshop began the process leading to a foundational Technical Input Report (TIR), the Great Plains Regional Climate Assessment Technical Report.5552509e-9af3-46dd-8920-78083bee05bc The TIR consists of 18 chapters assembled by 37 authors representing a wide range of inputs including governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribes, and other entities. The chapter author team engaged in multiple technical discussions via regular teleconferences. These included careful review of the foundational TIRd873710b-8d1f-43fa-bb4f-2ffe216c089c and of approximately 50 additional technical inputs provided by the public, as well as the other published literature, and professional judgment. These discussions were followed by expert deliberation of draft key messages by the authors during an in-person meeting in Kansas City in April 2012, wherein each message was defended before the entire author team prior to the key message being selected for inclusion in the report. These discussions were supported by targeted consultation with additional experts by the lead author of each message, and they were based on criteria that help define “key vulnerabilities”.

Description of evidence base: The key message and supporting text summarize extensive evidence documented in the Great Plains Technical Input Report.5552509e-9af3-46dd-8920-78083bee05bc Technical inputs (47) on a wide range of topics were also received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input. A number of publications have explored the changes in habitat composition,80d18872-e836-4b21-b4ef-0f2d0a749c8a plant distribution and development cycles 5bb98e9a-bb4f-4653-9ad2-8a34477a67dd 55d834fb-1331-4109-bf4f-de3bbd0e427c 2d1ffd71-6c31-4d2e-9867-bdf330be45c1 and animal distributions.c849fdf7-2cee-4145-ac55-467df10a93b8 03297bb4-3833-4606-ae88-a166d29b7288 a9bcda11-7477-4869-b54e-0c517faf5ee3 7968a678-1b5c-4053-bdcc-d055d6598cf2 5911579e-b87d-4bd1-8f87-f4cf954e9081

New information and remaining uncertainties: In general, the anticipated carbon dioxide enrichment, warming, and increase in precipitation variability influence vegetation primarily by affecting soil-water availability to plants. This is especially important as the transition between water surplus and water deficit (based on precipitation minus evapotranspiration) occurs across the Great Plains, with eastern areas supporting more biomass than western areas, especially given the current east-to-west difference in precipitation and the vegetation it supports.b1e303ed-55c2-4857-b40c-5c9894d9ed5c These effects are evident in experiments with each of the individual aspects of climate change.6ad87ddf-be55-486c-a614-6ca801d9965e It is difficult to project, however, all of the interactions with all of the vegetative species of the Great Plains, so as to better manage ecosystems. Several native species have been in decline due to habitat fragmentation, including quail, ocelots, and lesser prairie chickens.9af61124-509d-41a0-8576-e7bcc7a5e355 Traditional adaptation methods of migration common to the Great Plains, such as bison herds had historically done, are less of an option as animals are confined to particular locations due to habitat fragmentation. As habitats change due to invasive species of plant and animals and as climate change reduces viability of native vegetation, the current landscapes may be incapable of supporting these wildlife populations.a9bcda11-7477-4869-b54e-0c517faf5ee3 7968a678-1b5c-4053-bdcc-d055d6598cf2

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Confidence is very high that landscape is already fragmented and will continue to become more fragmented as energy exploration expands into less suitable agriculture lands that have not been developed as extensively. The effects of carbon dioxide and water availability on individual species are well known, but there is less published research on the interaction among different species. Evidence for the impact of climate change on species is very high, but specific adaptation strategies used by these species are less certain. Because of the more limited knowledge on adaptation strategies, we rate this key message overall has having high confidence. Our assessment is based upon historical methods, such as migration, used by species across the Great Plains to adapt to previous changes in climate and habitats and the incompatibility of those methods with current land-use practices.

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