Pearman-Gillman, S., M. Duveneck, J. Murdoch, and T. M. Donovan. 2020. Species distribution changes under alternative landscape futures: Using a scenario framework to identify drivers and consequences of landscape change on wildlife in New England. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8:164. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2020.00164.
In an era of rapid climate and land transformation, it is increasingly important to understand how future changes impact natural systems. Scenario studies can offer the structure and perspective needed to understand the impacts of change and help inform management and conservation decisions. We implemented a scenario-based approach to assess how two high impact drivers of landscape change influence the distributions of managed wildlife species (n = 10) in the New England region of the northeastern United States. We used expert derived species distribution models (SDMs) and scenarios developed by the New England Landscape Futures Project (NELFP) to estimate how species distributions change under various trajectories (n = 5) of landscape change. The NELFP scenarios were built around two primary drivers – Socio-Economic Connectedness (SEC) and Natural Resource Planning and Innovation (NRPI) – and provide plausible alternatives for how the New England region may change over 50 years (2010–2060). Our models generally resulted in species occurrence and richness declines by 2060. The majority of species (7 of 10) experienced declines in regional occurrence for all NELFP scenarios, and one species experienced a projected increase in mean regional occurrence for all scenarios. Our results indicate that the NRPI and SEC drivers strongly influenced projected distribution changes compared to baseline projections. NRPI had a greater impact on distribution change for five species (coyote, moose, striped skunk, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey), while SEC had a greater impact on four species (American black bear, bobcat, raccoon, and red fox); one species (gray fox) was equally influenced by both NRPI and SEC. These results emphasize the importance of integrating both natural resource planning and socio-economic factors when addressing issues of distribution change and offer insights that can inform proactive management and conservation planning.