Use of land facets to design linkages for climate change
Least-cost modeling for focal species is the most widely used method for designing conservation corridors and linkages. However, these linkages have been based on current species' distributions and land cover, both of which will change with large-scale climate change. One method to develop corridors that facilitate species' shifting distributions is to incorporate climate models into their design. But this approach is enormously complex and prone to error propagation. It also produces outputs at a grain size (km2) coarser than the grain at which conservation decisions are made. One way to avoid these problems is to design linkages for the continuity and interspersion of land facets, or recurring landscape units of relatively uniform topography and soils. This coarse-filter approach aims to conserve the arenas of biological activity rather than the temporary occupants of those arenas. In this paper, we demonstrate how land facets can be defined in a rule-based and adaptable way, and how they can be used for linkage design in the face of climate change. We used fuzzy c-means cluster analysis to define land facets with respect to four topographic variables (elevation, slope angle, solar insolation, and topographic position), and least-cost analysis to design linkages that include one corridor per land facet. To demonstrate the flexibility of our procedures, we designed linkages using land facets in three topographically diverse landscapes in Arizona, USA. Our procedures can use other variables, including soil variables, to define land facets. We advocate using land facets to complement, rather than replace, existing focal species approaches to linkage design. This approach can be used even in regions lacking land cover maps and is not affected by the bias and patchiness common in species occurrence data.