Protected areas must be adapted to survive global warming
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
April 3, 2007
"Extinctions due to climate change are not inevitable — this research shows that new protected areas can greatly reduce the risk faced by species that help sustain us," said Lee Hannah, a Conservation International (CI) climate scientist and the study's lead author. "Areas set aside for nature are an important tool to combat climate change extinctions, and one that is well-tested and can be deployed immediately."
Applying species distribution modeling and conservation planning tools in Mexico, the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, and Western Europe, the international team of researchers forecast "the need for additional protected areas in light of anticipated species range shifts caused by climate change." They found that existing protected areas will cover the ranges of many species as climate changes, but that additional area will be required to cover the ranges of most species.
Photo by Rhett Butler
"Conserving biodiversity as climate changes is a two-pronged challenge, requiring both adaptation — improved conservation strategies — and mitigation — stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," they continue.
The researchers said that since conservation efforts will become increasingly difficult the more climate changes, limiting climate change should be a top priority.
"Protected area additions will eventually be overwhelmed unless they are coupled with limitation of atmospheric greenhouse gases," they wrote. "By the 2050s, many species in some regions may be unable to meet even the modest representation target used in this study, indicating that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere of as little as double pre-industrial CO2 might already exceed the capacity of improved conservation systems to maintain biodiversity."
"Stopping climate change and dealing with the impacts that are now inevitable must go hand-in-hand," Hannah added. "No conservation strategy can cope with the levels of change that will be experienced if we continue at the current pace of climate change."
CITATION: Lee Hannah, Guy Midgley, Sandy Andelman, Miguel Araújo, Greg Hughes, Enrique Martinez-Meyer, Richard Pearson, and Paul Williams (2007) Protected area needs in a changing climate. Front Ecol Environ 2007; 5(3): 131—138
More on the impact of climate change on biodiversity
Extinction, like climate change, is complicated
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This article uses quotes and information from a Conservation International (CI) news release and the FREE paper.
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