Planning for the future: identifying conservation priority areas for Iberian birds under climate change

Species are expected to shift their distributions in response to global environmental changes and additional protected areas are needed to encompass the corresponding changes in the distributions of their habitats. Conservation policies are likely to become obsolete unless they integrate the potential impacts of climate and land-use change on biodiversity. We identify conservation priority areas for current and future projected distributions of Iberian bird species. We then investigate the extent to which global change informed priority areas are: (i) covered by existing protected area networks (national protected areas and Natura 2000); (ii) threatened by agricultural or urban land-use changes. We use outputs of species distributions models fitted with climatic data as inputs in spatial prioritization tools to identify conservation priority areas for 168 bird species. We use projections of land-use change to then discriminate between threatened and non-threatened priority areas. 19% of the priority areas for birds are covered by national protected areas and 23% are covered by Natura 2000 sites. The spatial mismatch between protected area networks and priority areas for birds is projected to increase with climate change. But there are opportunities to improve the protection of birds under climate change, as half of the priority areas are currently neither protected nor in conflict with urban or agricultural land-uses. We identify critical areas for bird conservation both under current and climate change conditions, and propose that they could guide the establishment of new conservation areas across the Iberian Peninsula complementing existing protected areas.