Shifting protected areas: scheduling spatial priorities under climate change

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Conservation planning decisions are constrained by three important factors: budgets are limited, important areas for biodiversity compete for space with other uses, and climate- and land-use changes are affecting the distribution of life thus compounding existing threats to biodiversity. Decisions about locating and allocating resources for conservation in such complex and dynamic world are far from trivial, with apparently optimal decisions in the present being potential suboptimal in the future.We propose a methodological framework for the dynamic spatial prioritization of conservation areas that optimizes long-term conservation goals under climate change. This approach involves a sequential scheduling of conservation areas designation, followed by the release of some areas when they stop contributing to the specified long-term conservation goals. The usefulness of the proposed approach is demonstrated with a case study involving ten species in the Iberian Peninsula under severe scenarios of climate change, but the framework could be applied more broadly.Species persistence under climate change is enhanced by the dynamic spatial prioritization strategy that assumes area release. With such strategy, the long-term persistence of species is consistently higher than expected with no release of redundant areas, particularly when the budgets to acquire and manage conservation areas are small. When budgets are small, long-term persistence of species might only be achieved when the release of previously selected areas is considered alongside the selection of new areas.Synthesis and applications. Given that conservation budgets are typically small, conservation strategies involving the release of some underperforming areas might be required to achieve long-term persistence of species. This should be the case when climate change forces species to move out of current protected areas with other areas becoming important to meet conservation objectives. Implementing such dynamic prioritization approach would require a paradigm shift in conservation planning because conservation areas, once selected, are rarely released. Dynamic selection of areas also involves risks that should be considered in a case-by-case situation.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)703-713
JournalJournal Of Applied Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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