Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Pearman-Gillman, S., M. Duveneck, J. Murdoch, and T. Donovan. 2020. Wildlife resistence and protection in a changing New England landscape. PLOS ONE 15(9): e0239525.


Rapid changes in climate and land use threaten the persistence of wildlife species. Understanding where species are likely to occur now and in the future can help identify areas that are resistant to change over time and guide conservation planning. We estimated changes in species distribution patterns and spatial resistance in five future scenarios for the New England region of the northeastern United States. We present scenario-specific distribution change maps for nine harvested wildlife species, identifying regions of increasing, decreasing, or stable habitat suitability within each scenario. Next, we isolated areas where species occurrence probability is high (p > 0.7) and resistant to change across all future scenarios. Resistance was also evaluated relative to current land protection to identify patterns in and out of Protected Areas (PAs). Generally, species distributions declined in area over the 50-year assessment period (2010–2060), with the greatest average declines occurring for moose (-40.9%) and wild turkey (-22.1%). Species resistance varied considerably across the region, with coyote demonstrating the highest average regional resistance (91.81% of the region) and moose demonstrating the lowest (0.76% of the region). At the state level, average focal species resistance was highest in Maine (the largest state) and lowest in Massachusetts. Many of the focal species showed high overlap in resistance and land protection. Coyote, white-tailed deer, and black bear had the highest probability of resistance, given protection, while moose and wild turkey had the highest probability of protection, given resistance. Overall, relatively small portions of New England—ranging between 0.25% and 21.12%–were both protected and resistant for the focal species. Our results provide estimates of resistance that can inform conservation planning for commonly harvested species that are important ecologically, economically, and culturally to the region. Expanding protected area coverage to include resistant areas may provide longer term benefits to these species.