Restoring Habitat outside Protected Areas is crucial for the Survival of Riparian Biodiversity Hotspots under Changing Climate

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Sabine Fink, Christoph Scheidegger

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Changing climate creates major alterations in riparian areas. Therefore river restoration and floodplains revitalizations are main targets for conservation planning. Protected sites offer sanctuaries, but changing habitat conditions challenge the survival of sessile riparian species, especially plants. Climate change enhances threat on vulnerable habitats, such as riverine floodplain forest habitats, which are biodiversity hotspots. We use ecological models to investigate if protected areas provide refugia for typical floodplain forest plant species under changing climate. A coupled-modelling approach allows gaining spatially explicit information on the persistence of species in protected sites and on new areas for sanctuaries: We predict the niche of 17 species representing different successional stages along rivers in Switzerland using information on current, moderate and extreme climate change scenarios up to 80 years to the future (2100). We simulate the spread of species from current sites to suitable future habitat, using dispersal vectors and life history traits. Floodplain forest species of early successional stages are more flexible also under extreme climate change scenarios than indicators for late successional stages. The spread of species is mainly limited by their dispersal ability, but also inhibited by changing habitat suitability. The predicted future presence of single species within protected areas decreases under both climate change scenarios, indicating that the habitat is not persistent for plants. Current protected floodplains do not provide refugia for the sessile riparian plant indicator species studied. Planning of sanctuaries for riparian vegetation need to focus on connectivity along rivers to maintain viable source populations in dynamic riverine landscapes under changing climate.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program