Landscape-Scale Conservation And Management Of Montane Wildlife: Contemporary Climate May Be Changing The Rules

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Evolutionary Biology
Oregon Climate Change Research Institute
Volume 17, No. 1-4

Landscape-scale conservation and management of 
Montane wildlife: Contemporary climate may be   
Changing the rules
Erik A. Beever,* U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman, 
Montana 59715
Chris Ray, University of Colorado, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Boulder,  
Colorado 80309
Jennifer L. Wilkening, University of Colorado, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 
Boulder, Colorado 80309
Philip W. Mote, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Oregon Climate Services, College 
of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon  97331
Peter F. Brussard, University of Nevada, Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation 
Biology, Reno, Nevada  89557
Both paleontological and contemporary results have suggested that montane ecosystems 
to be systems of relatively rapid faunal change compared to many valley-bottom counterparts. 
In addition to experiencing greater magnitudes of contemporary change in climatic parameters 
than species in other ecosystems, mountain-dwelling wildlife must also accommodate often-

greater intra-annual swings in temperature and wind speeds, poorly developed soils, and 
generally harsher conditions. Research on a mountain-dwelling mammal species across 15 
yrs of contemporary data and historical records from 1898-1956 suggest that pace of local 
extinctions and rate of upslope retraction have been markedly more rapid and governed by 
markedly different dynamics in the last decade than during the 20th century. This may mean 
that understanding past dynamics of species losses may not always help predict patterns of 
future loss. Given the importance of clinal variability and ecotypic variation, phenotypic 
plasticity, behavioral plasticity, and variation in climatic conditions, for widely-distributed 
species’ geographic ranges to be determined by different factors in different portions of their 
range is not uncommon. Consequently, greatest progress in understanding distributional-
change phenomena will occur with coordinated, landscape-scale research and monitoring. 
Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and Climate Science Centers are newly emerging 
efforts that may contribute greatly to such broad-scale investigations, e.g., climate-wildlife 
relationships. Based on our empirical findings and our review of related literature, we propose 
tenets that may serve as foundational starting points for mechanism-based research at broad 
scales to inform management and conservation of diverse montane wildlife and the ecosystem 
components with which they interact.