Current and future coverage of protected areas in the Appalachian Mountains

Climate change may shift species ranges to improve coverage of protected areas for some species while worsening for others.

Data resources used via GBIF : Occurrences of 258 species
Plethodon hubrichti
Plethodon hubrichti Thurow, 1957 observed near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, USA by gman122 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Protected areas (PA) are an important tool to help conserve global biodiversity. As the climate changes, the coverage of PAs for some species and habitats may change—for better or worse.

In this study, researchers evaluated the current and future PA coverage in the US Appalachian Mountains of the species ranges of 258 amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles of conservation policy concern.

Using GBIF-mediated occurrences, the authors modelled the current bioclimatic niche of each species, forecasting future range shifts by integrating climate projections from circulation models and greenhouse gas concentration pathways.

The current PA coverage was found to be rather poor with more than 90 per cent of species having less than 15 per cent of their estimated ranges covered. Assuming species are able to disperse freely, future climatic conditions would aggrevate coverage for amphibians and mammals, but improve coverage for birds and reptiles.

The authors suggest the Blue Ridge region as a candidate for increasing protection with both current and future environments suitable for the greatest number of species.

Zhu G, Papeş M, Giam X, Cho S-H and Armsworth PR (2021) Are protected areas well-sited to support species in the future in a major climate refuge and corridor in the United States? Biological Conservation. Elsevier BV 255: 108982. Available at: