Post provided by Diogo André Alagador
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.”
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.
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.
“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”.
To find out more about dispersal corridors, read our Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘Climate 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.