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A changing climate for protected areas

in the early stages of climate change, while adding new protected areas or expanding current ones would maintain species protection in future decades and centuries. It also shows that anticipating the need for new protected areas and getting them created in the short term will be less expensive than waiting until the impacts of climate change become more significant.

The new study measures the continued effectiveness of protected areas as the global climate changes, unlike previous studies that modeled species range shifts without considering new protected areas or focused on existing impacts of climate change without considering the long-term future.

Existing conservation plans have assumed that species distributions change relatively slowly, unless they are directly affected by human activities, said Miguel Arajo, a co-author of the study. However, our study shows that these strategies must anticipate the impacts of climate change if extinctions are to be reduced.

The studys authors also warned that protected areas would fail in the long run unless climate change is stopped.

Stopping climate change and dealing with the impacts that are now inevitable must go hand-in-hand, Hannah said. No conservation strategy can cope with the levels of change that will be experienced if we continue at the current pace of climate change.

Three regions used as models for the study were Mexico (birds and mammals), and Western Europe and the Cape Floristic Region of Africa (plants). Species distribution models were used for a total of 1,695 species in the three regions. Because the three highly varied regions represent many of the worlds ecosystems, it is likely that new protected areas must be created in most parts of the world.


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Contact: Tom Cohen
tcohen@conservation.org
703-341-2729
Conservation International
2-Apr-2007


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