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A changing climate for protected areas

Arlington, Virginia (April 2, 2007) On April 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a report entitled Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability that focuses on how climate change is affecting the planet.

One finding is an accelerated rate of species extinctions, with estimates of up to 1 million species at risk in coming decades. However, new research shows that protected areas can be an effective tool for preventing such extinctions.

The study by a team of international scientists published March 30 in the journal Frontiers in Environment and Ecology (FREE) concludes that protected areas are necessary for preventing the loss of species due to climate change provided that shifts in species ranges are factored into early analysis of whether to expand current protected areas or create new ones. It is the first research on the relevancy of protected areas a mainstay of conservation efforts in adapting to climate change.

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 studys 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.

The study by scientists from the United States, South Africa, United Kingdom, Spain and Mexico found that existing protected areas cover the ranges of many species as climate changes, but additional area is required to cover all species. Creating new protected areas based on climate change would cover the ranges of most species.

As the climate changes, species adapt by moving beyond their traditional ranges, potentially traveling out of current protected areas such as national parks. The study found that existing protected areas remain effective
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Contact: Tom Cohen
tcohen@conservation.org
703-341-2729
Conservation International
2-Apr-2007


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