Potential future land use threats to California’s protected areas

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Increasing pressures from land use coupled with future changes in climate will present unique challenges for California’s protected areas. We assessed the potential for future land use conversion on land surrounding existing protected areas in California’s twelve ecoregions, utilizing annual, spatially explicit (250 m) scenario projections of land use for 2006–2100 based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Emission Scenarios to examine future changes in development, agriculture, and logging. We calculated a conversion threat index (CTI) for each unprotected pixel, combining land use conversion potential with proximity to protected area boundaries, in order to identify ecoregions and protected areas at greatest potential risk of proximal land conversion. Our results indicate that California’s Coast Range ecoregion had the highest CTI with competition for extractive logging placing the greatest demand on land in close proximity to existing protected areas. For more permanent land use conversions into agriculture and developed uses, our CTI results indicate that protected areas in the Central California Valley and Oak Woodlands are most vulnerable. Overall, the Eastern Cascades, Central California Valley, and Oak Woodlands ecoregions had the lowest areal percent of protected lands and highest conversion threat values. With limited resources and time, rapid, landscape-level analysis of potential land use threats can help quickly identify areas with higher conversion probability of future land use and potential changes to both habitat and potential ecosystem reserves. Given the broad range of future uncertainties, LULC projections are a useful tool allowing land managers to visualize alternative landscape futures, improve planning, and optimize management practices.




Wilson, T. S., Sleeter, B. M., & Davis, A. W. (2015). Potential future land use threats to California’s protected areas. Regional Environmental Change, 15(6), 1051–1064. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-014-0686-9

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