Conservation policies and planning under climate change

Biodiversity conservation policies focus on securing the survival of species and habitats according to their current distribution. This basic premise may be inappropriate for halting biodiversity decline under the dynamic changes caused by climate change. This study explores a dynamic spatial conservation prioritization problem where climate change gradually changes the future habitat suitability of a site’ current species. This has implications for survival probability, as well as for species that potentially immigrate to the site. The problem is explored using a set of heuristics for both of two policy objectives focusing on (1) the protection on current (native) species, and (2) all species, including immigrating species. The trade-offs between the protection of native species versus all species is illustrated. The study shows that the development of prediction models of future species distributions as the basis of decision rules can be crucial for ensuring the effectiveness of conservation plans. Finally, it is discussed how more adaptive strategies, that allow for the redirection of resources from protected sites to privately-owned sites, may increase the effectiveness of the conservation networks. Climate change induced shifts in the suitability of habitats for species may increase the value of such adaptive strategies, the benefit decreasing with increasing migration probabilities and species distribution dynamics.