Space-time continuum and conservation planning: Helping Species Adapt to Climate Change

Post provided by Diogo André Alagador

The world’s most threatened felid (Iberian lynx) is endemic in a region predicted to be severely impacted by climate change: the Iberian Peninsula. ©lynxexsitu.es

The world’s most threatened felid (Iberian lynx) is from a region predicted to be severely impacted by climate change: the Iberian Peninsula. ©lynxexsitu.es

Climate change is driving many species to alter their geographic distributions. The ranges of some species contract, expand or shift as individuals track favorable climate conditions. In some cases, threatened species are moving out of protected areas. These trends are expected to intensify in the coming years.

To increase conservation effectiveness within protected areas in the future, researchers at the Research Center on Biodiversity and Genetic Resources at the University of Évora and the Department of Mathematics of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology from the NOVA University in Lisbon, Portugal, have come up with a set of modelling tools to optimize the scheduling of conservation area allocation as the climate changes. These take into account restrictions of conservation area expansion derived from the prevailing socio-economic activities. “The objective is to select the best dispersal corridors for each species considering a budget restriction or competition with other socioeconomic activities” said Diogo Alagador. “These selections are complex and non-trivial as they incorporate decisions on the spatial and temporal trends of large sets of species.”

The concept of a spatio-temporal corridor for a species in an environmental heterogeneous region.

The concept of a spatio-temporal corridor for a species in an environmental heterogeneous region.

Despite the potential for large-scale species range shifts, protected areas should remain a principal component of conservation strategy under climate change, as they help to limit other pervasive threats like habitat loss. “As climate changes, new areas gain conservation relevancy, while other areas are likely to lose it. Therefore, a way to better manage the available (and commonly scarce) budgets and to minimize conflicts with other activities, is to give priority to the least costly and more valued areas while giving away areas that are expected to lose conservation value” said Diogo Alagador, the leading author of the study, recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.The authors have pinpointed that when putting in practice other factors apart the modelled ones should be taken into account. “For example, an ecologically deprecated area may still possess some conservation value, to act as a buffer to other occurring threats” explained Miguel B. Araújo, co-author of the study. “There are many local characteristics that are hardly quantified (emotional links to areas) that make area evaluation complex” added Diogo Alagador.

A Natura 2000 site in Portugal which has a Montado ecosystem, expected to be greatly impacted by climate change. ©Quiosques Montemor-O-Novo

A Natura 2000 site in Portugal which has a Montado ecosystem, expected to be greatly impacted by climate change. ©Quiosques Montemor-O-Novo

Jorge Orestes Cerdeira, also a co-author of the study, explained that these models set up the principles of acting with severe budget limitations and a highly dynamic environment. “The areas that are de-allocated from conservation may actually enter a land bank and some financial resources may be earned in that way.”

In recent years, scientific literature has experienced an exponential increase in studies that settle their goals in identifying conservation-valued areas under climate change, but the this study introduces the first spatial conservation models that have been explicitly designed to integrate ecological and socio-economic dynamics from global change. “In this study we introduce a set of related models that respond to distinct conservation goals: they minimize the cost of the area needed to conserve each species adequately; they maximize the persistence of a pool of species under a given area extent to be settled per species; they minimize the cost of the areas where species’ persistences are likely to cover targeted persistence targets”, said Diogo Alagador.

Three models of selection of climate change corridors. The models vary in terms of their guiding objective functions, their constraints and data required.

Three models of selection of climate change corridors. The models vary in terms of their guiding objective functions, their constraints and data required.

“In my view, conservation practice does not need a radical shift to accommodate climate change. Application of orthodox conservation actions, such as habitat restoration or the establishment and maintenance of protected areas, will remain the key pieces in a conservationist’s tool belt. But, in order to couple with environmental dynamics and stay cost-effective, they should be dynamic as well”.

Climate change dispersal corridors for the European mink and the four leaf clover in Iberian Peninsula. The areas were selected to minimize the overall cost and to accommodate specified levels of species’ persistences.

Climate change dispersal corridors for the European mink and the four leaf clover in Iberian Peninsula. The areas were selected to minimize the overall cost and to accommodate specified levels of species’ persistences.

To find out more about dispersal corridors, read our Methods in Ecology and Evolution articleClimate change, species range shifts and dispersal corridors: an evaluation of spatial conservation models’.

This article is part of our Virtual Issue on Conservation Ecology. All articles in this Virtual Issue are freely available for a limited time.

Advertisements

One thought on “Space-time continuum and conservation planning: Helping Species Adapt to Climate Change

  1. Pingback: Pre-dinosaur footprint discovery in Spain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s