Reliable assessments of how human activities will affect wildlife populations are essential for making scientifically defensible resource management decisions. A principle challenge of predicting effects of proposed management, development, or conservation actions is the need to incorporate multiple biotic and abiotic factors, including land-use and climate change, that interact to affect wildlife habitat and populations through time. Here we demonstrate how models of land-use, climate change, and other dynamic factors can be integrated into a coherent framework for predicting wildlife population trends. Our framework starts with land-use and climate change models developed for a region of interest. Vegetation changes through time under alternative future scenarios are predicted using an individual-based plant community model. These predictions are combined with spatially explicit animal habitat models to map changes in the distribution and quality of wildlife habitat expected under the various scenarios. Animal population responses to habitat changes and other factors are then projected using a flexible, individual-based animal population model. As an example application, we simulated animal population trends under three future land-use scenarios and four climate change scenarios in the Cascade Range of western Oregon. We chose two birds with contrasting habitat preferences for our simulations: winter wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes), which are most abundant in mature conifer forests, and song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), which prefer more open, shrubby habitats. We used climate and land-use predictions from previously published studies, as well as previously published predictions of vegetation responses using FORCLIM, an individual-based forest dynamics simulator. Vegetation predictions were integrated with other factors in PATCH, a spatially explicit, individual-based animal population simulator. Through incorporating effects of landscape history and limited dispersal, our framework predicted population changes that typically exceeded those expected based on changes in mean habitat suitability alone. Although land-use had greater impacts on habitat quality than did climate change in our simulations, we found that small changes in vital rates resulting from climate change or other stressors can have large consequences for population trajectories. The ability to integrate bottom-up demographic processes like these with top-down constraints imposed by climate and land-use in a dynamic modeling environment is a key advantage of our approach. The resulting framework should allow researchers to synthesize existing empirical evidence, and to explore complex interactions that are difficult or impossible to capture through piecemeal modeling approaches. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V.
Additional publication details
A multi-model framework for simulating wildlife population response to land-use and climate change