CLIMATE CHANGE AND MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MINING: A MAXENT ASSESSMENT OF THE POTENTIAL DUAL THREAT TO WEST VIRGINIA FISHES
Accounts of species’ range shifts in response to climate change, primarily as latitudinal shifts towards the poles or upslope shifts to higher elevations, are rapidly accumulating. These range shifts are often attributed to species ‘tracking’ their thermal niches as temperatures in their native ranges increase. Our objective is to assess the effects climate change-driven shifts in water temperature may have on West Virginia’s freshwater fishes, focusing explicitly on increased exposure to mountaintop removal (MTR) surface coal mining. Mid-century shifts in habitat suitability for nine non-game West Virginia fishes were projected via Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) species distribution modeling using a combination of contemporary climate conditions and the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 future climate scenarios. Results from RCP 8.5 scenarios predict habitat suitability will generally increase in high elevation streams that lie within a 10 km radius buffer of MTR sites, thereby increasing the risk of exposure to MTR effects for many freshwater fishes. Methods and results presented here can be used to inform management and conservation decisions for aquatic species threatened by MTR and other large-scale disturbances.
Lindsey Flanary (Primary Presenter/Author), Virginia Commonwealth University , email@example.com;