Identifying the most important corridors for species movement under future climatic change in the rainforests of the Australian Wet Tropics

Falconi L (1), VanDerWal J (2), Storlie C (3), Williams S.E (4)

1 College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, 4811, lorena.falconilopez@jcu.edu.au

2 College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, 4811, jeremy.vanderwal@jcu.edu.au

3 College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, 4811, collin.storlie@jcu.edu.au

4 College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, 4811, stephen.williams@jcu.edu.au

Current climatic change is already impacting many species in the Australian Wet Tropics and impacts are predicted to get much worse over this century. Informed conservation management requires systematic, objective and spatially-explicit information to guide decisions now that will bring the most positive benefits in the future. Conservation responses and decisions are restricted by the uncertainty of the consequences, scale and frequency of the impacts climate change will produce in this region. Conservation planning strategies need spatially-explicit prioritisation of regional biodiversity based on both current and future biodiversity patterns in order to design spatially and temporally cost-effective strategies for landscape management. Here we show the most important biodiversity hotspots in the region both now and in the future and highlight the areas of landscape connectivity required to allow this biodiversity to move within the landscape as climate changes. We use detailed distribution maps of over 200 species of vertebrates and we evaluate the alternatives to connect current and future refugia under projected future climates. Recognizing that the impacts of climate change are uncertain, we objectively prioritize areas important for species movement based on both present and future species distributions and consider the uncertainty based on different climate models, emission scenarios and management priorities. These results inform managers and policy makers about places that will be important both now and in the future even under considerable uncertainty thereby enabling significant risk reduction in conservation planning aimed at protecting the Wet Tropics World heritage Area.

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