Report on the observed climate, projected climate, and projected biodiversity changes for Shenandoah National Park under differing levels of warming

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Shenandoah National Park is among the top 16% of all non-marine protected areas, globally. As a park with topography running along the Blue Ridge Mountains, much of the park is resilient to climate change, even with higher levels of warming. Averaged over the entire area, with 4°C warming (global, above pre-industrial), the area is projected to remain climatically suitable for 69.3% of its terrestrial biodiversity (fungi, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates), with 32.8% of its area remaining an overall refugia (remaining climatically suitable for >75% of the species) for biodiversity. However, if warming levels were held to 2°C, 97.2% of the area would remain a climatic refugia and the area would remain climatically suitable for 89.4% of its terrestrial biodiversity.
Between 1961-1990 and 1991-2020 the average monthly temperature has increased by -0.2° (November) - +1.2°C. With warming levels of 2.0°C the new average monthly temperature is equivalent to that only seen 1 in 20 years in 1961-1990 for June – September. All but three months have seen increases in precipitation, but August, October and November have been drier. Models project that most months will become wetter except for October. However, the number of months with severe drought has increased slightly between 1961-1990 and 1986-2015. With 2°C warming (global, relative to pre-industrial) the number of months in severe drought more than triples.
Biodiversity adaptation options generally allow for business-as-usual conservation, especially at higher elevations, taking into account changes in extreme events (especially severe drought). However, lower elevation areas would need increasing levels of adaptation effort, especially with warming levels of 3°C and above.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages52
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2024

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