Abating climate change impacts on Kincaid’s lupine

Most Kincaid’s lupine restoration efforts are focused on the historic habitats of this species: south-facing prairies and oak savannahs. However, we have observed that lupines growing in shade at forest margins are often more vigorous than lupines in full sun. Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have increased by nearly 1°C since the early part of the twentieth century (Doppelt et al. 2009); thus, moderately shaded microhabitats may now provide more suitable climatic conditions for this species. The historic habitat of Kincaid’s lupine may continue to become more inhospitable given that climate models predict a temperature increase of 1 to 2 ºC by 2040 and up to 3 to 4º C by 2080 (Doppelt et al. 2009) and decreased growing-season precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. These climate changes may be particularly detrimental to populations of rare species already stressed by a lack of connectivity and gene flow and competition with exotic species. In addition, projected climate changes may increase nitrogen availability in Pacific Northwest prairies, thus eliminating the main competitive advantage of nitrogen-fixing species like lupines. Despite these challenges, a number of factors suggest that the targets for recovery of Kincaid’s lupine are achievable. Seeds have been collected from several populations in each recovery zone, protected sites with suitable habitat for emergence of new populations have been identified, and we have developed a large body of knowledge on the biology and ecology of this species (e.g. USFWS 2010). By determining how projected changes to climate affect emergence and survival of Kincaid’s lupine, we can increase the potential for long-term persistence of introduced populations.

The objectives of this project are to:

1. Test for shifts in microclimate suitability given current climate change, by experimentally reintroducing plants in multiple microclimates at three sites. 2. Determine if there is a difference in emergence and survival within each microclimate between seeds from southern (hotter and drier) and more northern (cooler and moister) populations. 2. Develop recommendations for appropriate site selection. 3. Share findings with key land management partners and others involved in plant conservation.