Translocation in a time of climate change

The translocation of species for conservation involves both the restoration of historic populations (moving organisms to where they once occurred) to managing the relocation of imperiled species to new locations (moving organisms from a place where they are increasingly unable to survive to a place where they might be able to thrive, say in the face of climate change). It’s a challenging management strategy that usually comes with high risk and high cost, yet it is increasingly being considered.

In this paper, Mark Schwartz and EDG’s Tara Martin review the literature in three areas—translocation, managed relocation, and conservation decision making—to inform conservation translocation under changing climates.

They found that climate change increases the potential for conflict over both the efficacy and the acceptability of conservation translocation. The emerging literature on managed relocation highlights this discourse.

They also found that conservation translocation works in concert with other strategies. The emerging literature in structured decision making provides a framework for prioritizing conservation actions—considering many possible alternatives that are evaluated based on expected benefit, risk, and social–political feasibility.

Finally, the translocation literature has historically been primarily concerned with risks associated with the target species. In contrast, the managed relocation literature raises concerns about the ecological risk to the recipient ecosystem. Engaging in a structured decision process that explicitly focuses on stakeholder engagement, problem definition and specification of goals from the outset will allow creative solutions to be developed and evaluated based on their expected effectiveness.


Schwartz MW & TG Martin (2013). Translocation of imperiled species under changing climates. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1286: 15-28.

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