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Conservation triage at the trailing edge of climate envelopes

Faculty Advisor




at-risk species, climate change, conservation

Abstract (summary)

Species protection via geographically fixed conservation actions is a primary tool for maintenance of biodiversity worldwide (Pimm et al. 2014). Yet, for many species, the assumption that currently suitable sites will remain so is undermined by climate change (Urban 2015; Wiens 2016). Climate-change-associated range shifts (Chen et al. 2011), a process driven by populations at the trailing edge of the climate envelope going extinct or moving and those at the leading edge becoming established, are becoming widespread around the world (Wiens 2016). We argue that conservation of populations of at-risk species should be prioritized across each species’ range based on future climatic suitability of an area with the goal of maintaining or increasing the number of viable populations range wide. Such range-wide prioritization could help conserve species in a changing climate when resources are limited; effort would be reallocated to viable populations (Oliver et al. 2012; Alagador & Cerdeira 2016). Promisingly, resistance to this approach (Oliver et al. 2016) may be waning. Many nongovernment organizations (e.g., International Panel on Climate Change, World Wildlife Fund) now use climate-informed range-wide approaches, as do some national and state agencies (e.g., Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies 2018; Cornwall 2018). We aimed to advance discussion and implementation of climate-informed prioritization across species’ ranges and considered when populations behind the trailing edge of climate change should be deprioritized.

Publication Information

Gilbert, S., Broadly, K., Doran-Myers, D., Droghini, A., Haines, J. A., Hämäläinen, A., Lamb, C. T., Neilson, E., Boutin, S. (2020). Conservation triage at the trailing edge of climate envelopes. Conservation Biology, 34(1), 289-292.


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