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A multi-species modelling approach to examine the impact of alternative climate change adaptation strategies on range shifting ability in a fragmented landscape

This paper describes research to test the effects of varying ‘climate change adaptation strategies’ on the ability of different animals to move through the landscape in response to changing climatic conditions. The adaptation strategies tested were: 1) the improvement of existing habitat, 2) the restoration of low quality habitat and 3) the creation of new habitat. These strategies were tested on a landscape typical of the fragmented habitats of the UK.

A mathematical model was used to simulate the dispersal and population dynamics for eight different animal species and to differentiate between the use of climate change adaptation strategies next to or away from existing habitat patches. The total area being managed in the landscape for different adaptation strategies was set to realistic levels based on recent habitat management trends.

This video shows how two species expand northwards occupying new woodland patches. The black line shows the northern limit of the extent of the population. Occupied woodland is dark red, unoccupied woodland is lighter red, semi-natural habitats are light brown and purple, and agriculture is green.


The results showed the abilities of each species to move through the landscape and adjust their distribution varied dramatically. This reflected differences in their responses to each of the adaptation strategies. It was found that with conservative estimates of the area undergoing climate change adaptation (0.5%), few species showed a noticeable improvement in their distribution. With a larger (1%) area under-going adaptation, greater improvements in species’ distributions were found, although results were still species-specific. This suggests a need for greater investment to enable adaptation of the landscape to our changing climate.

Overall, it was found that increasing the size of small existing patches of habitat was the best way to enable species to move through the landscape and adjust their distribution in response to changing climatic conditions. The creation of new stepping stone features, whilst beneficial to some species, did not have such broad effect across different species.

Publication type
Peer reviewed papers
Publication owner
Forest Research