Data from: Effects of climate change on habitat availability and configuration for an endemic coastal alpine bird
Jackson, Michelle M.; Gergel, Sarah E.; Martin, Kathy (2016), Data from: Effects of climate change on habitat availability and configuration for an endemic coastal alpine bird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.c2378
North America’s coastal mountains are particularly vulnerable to climate change, yet harbour a number of endemic species. With little room “at the top” to track shifting climate envelopes, alpine species may be especially negatively affected by climate-induced habitat fragmentation. We ask how climate change will affect the total amount, mean patch size, and number of patches of suitable habitat for Vancouver Island White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura saxatilis; VIWTP), a threatened, endemic alpine bird. Using a Random Forest model and a unique dataset consisting of citizen science observations combined with field surveys, we predict the distribution and configuration of potential suitable summer habitat for VIWTP under current and future (2020s, 2050s, and 2080s) climates using three general circulation models and two greenhouse gas concentration scenarios. VIWTP summer habitat is predicted to decline by an average of 25%, 44%, and 56% by the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s, respectively, under the low greenhouse gas scenario and 27%, 59%, and 74% under the high scenario. Habitat patches are predicted to become fragmented into several smaller patches, with a 52-79% reduction in mean patch size. All climate change models and greenhouse gas scenarios depict near total loss of all patches > 1 km2. Most remaining habitat, or climate macro-refugia, will be located in the center of the island. The extent to which ptarmigan will be able to persist in increasingly fragmented habitat is unclear. Much will depend on the ability of ptarmigan to move throughout a more heterogeneous landscape, utilize smaller breeding areas, and survive increasingly variable climate extremes. Our results emphasize the importance of continued monitoring and protection for high elevation specialist species, and suggest that White-tailed Ptarmigan should be considered an indicator species for alpine ecosystems in the face of climate change.