Evaluating Biodiversity Metric Response to Forecasted Land Use Change in the Northern Rio Grande Basin

Environments. 2018;5(8):91. doi: 10.3390/environments5080091.


The effects of future land use change on arid and semi-arid watersheds in the American Southwest have important management implications. Seamless, national-scale land-use-change scenarios for developed land were acquired from the US Environmental Protection Agency Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios (lCLUS) project and extracted to fit the Northern Rio Grande River Basin, New Mexico relative to projections of housing density for the period from 2000 through 2100. Habitat models developed from the Southwest Regional Gap Analysis Project were invoked to examine changes in wildlife habitat and biodiversity metrics using five ICLUS scenarios. The scenarios represent a US Census base-case and four modifications that were consistent with the different assumptions underlying the A1, A2, B1, and B2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global greenhouse gas emission storylines. Habitat models for terrestrial vertebrate species were used to derive metrics reflecting ecosystem services or biodiversity aspects valued by humans that could be quantified and mapped. Example metrics included total terrestrial vertebrate species richness, bird species richness, threatened and endangered species, and harvestable species (e.g., waterfowl, big game). Overall, the defined scenarios indicated that the housing density and extent of developed lands will increase throughout the century with a resultant decrease in area for all species richness categories. The A2 Scenario, in general, showed greatest effect on area by species richness category. The integration of the land use scenarios with biodiversity metrics derived from deductive habitat models may prove to be an important tool for decision makers involved in impact assessments and adaptive planning processes.

Keywords: Rio Grande River; biodiversity; biodiversity metrics; deductive habitat models; ecosystem services; land use change; land use scenarios; urban growth; wildlife habitat; wildlife species.