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Are existing biodiversity conservation strategies appropriate in a changing climate?

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Publication details

JournalBiological Conservation
DatePublished - Jan 2016
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)17-26
Original languageEnglish


Many countries have conservation plans for threatened species, but such plans have generally been developed without taking into account the potential impacts of climate change. Here, we apply a decision framework, specifically developed to identify and prioritise climate change adaptation actions and demonstrate its use for 30 species threatened in the UK. Our aim is to assess whether government conservation recommendations remain appropriate under a changing climate. The species, associated with three different habitats (lowland heath, broadleaved woodland and calcareous grassland), were selected from a range of taxonomic groups (primarily moths and vascular plants, but also including bees, bryophytes, carabid beetles and spiders). We compare the actions identified for these threatened species by the decision framework with those included in existing conservation plans, as developed by the UK Government’s statutory adviser on nature conservation. We find that many existing conservation recommendations are also identified by the decision framework. However, there are large differences in the spatial prioritisation of actions when explicitly considering projected climate change impacts. This includes recommendations for actions to be carried out in areas where species do not currently occur, in order to allow them to track movement of suitable conditions for their survival. Uncertainties in climate change projections are not a reason to ignore them. Our results suggest that existing conservation plans, which do not take into account potential changes in suitable climatic conditions for species, may fail to maximise species persistence. Comparisons across species also suggest a more habitat-focused approach could be adopted to enable climate change adaptation for multiple species.

Bibliographical note

This is an author produced version of a paper accepted for publication in Biological Conservation. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Adaptive capacity, Connectivity, Habitat management and restoration, Threatened species, Translocation, Vulnerability

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