Being climate smart means looking forward and backward

Cost-effective conservation in a time of climate change

What is ‘climate smart’ when it comes to conservation planning in a time of climate change? Part of the answer is to take into account how climate change will impact areas where conservation activities are planned. For example, you don’t want to invest your limited budget in a wetland reserve when climate projections suggest the area won’t support a wetland in the future. Looking at what the future holds through a climate model lens is important, however, it’s only part of
the story. We’ve demonstrated that cost-effective conservation is only possible if you also factor in the history of the areas being considered for conservation activities (Watson et al., 2013).

Up until now, most planning assessments of how future climate change will affect our land and seascapes have been incomplete. They haven’t properly factored in how those landscapes have already been modified by human activities such as land clearing. Too often, assessments that have been done on future climate vulnerability have looked at the Earth as a blank slate, assuming that the level of warming a landscape or species faces is the only variable that counts, rather than a planet that has been modified in vastly different ways where humans have settled…



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