Landscape connectivity in the SEUSA
Land cover/land use alterations and a rapidly changing climate threaten the persistence of ecological communities by redistributing the unique environmental conditions under which they have evolved. Furthermore, these climate-by-habitat analogs are predicted to shift at a rate which may out-pace species’ abilities to adapt, likely resulting in species extinction or even total ecosystem collapse. Among the ecosystems which are most threatened by these changes, grasslands such as those found in the Gulf Coastal Plains in the southeastern USA are expected to be disproportionately impacted. The southeastern USA (SEUSA) is recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot and represents the greatest biodiversity priority region in the USA. Despite these threats, relatively few regional-scale landscape connectivity assessments have been conducted in the SEUSA when compared to the western USA. Given the comparatively fine-scale variation in land-use history and land ownership in the eastern US, a regional assessment of landscape connectivity would provide unique initial insights into the myriad legacy effects of land use and management on ecosystem resilience in the SEUSA.