species relocation service: new focus for conservation

pinion forest threatened

We got to see early science findings last March when Lee Hannah reported on ‘translocation’ as a method to save certain species at the Oahu climate change form.

Now the mapping of habitat movement is becoming a high art in great demand as conservationists ponder where to focus next.

Peter Aldus reports from the Society for Conservation Biology meeting in Chattanooga last month that research teams across the planet are trying to work out how species and habitats will be affected by changes in temperature, rainfall, sealevel and many other climate variables…just as we are here in Hawaii (via newscientist).

Wudja believe here's even a new mapping tool, called the ClimateWizard, if you wanna know how global warming is likely to affect your favourite species or locality. That's right, postdoc Evan Girvetz (now at UW in Seattle) has developed a climate change analysis toolbox which can be used to assess past observed and future modeled climate change at specific geographic areas of interest.

In Chattanooga, Girvetz provided examples of using these tools to assess how climate change is likely to impact priority conservation areas for The Nature Conservancy.

We already know Hawaii will lose much of its rainforest, as warming and drying trends push these habitats up the mountains...which are only so high (except Hawaii Island). At a 2.5C temperature increase, Kauai could lose 90% of its remaining Alakai rainforest.

Now we know that tigers will vanish from Bangladesh as the mangroves they occupy sink under the sea.

Also, the pinyon pines that dominate the local vegetation in New Mexico's Jemenez Mountains are increasingly susceptible to attack by bark beetles as temperatures rise, and face the prospect of imminent, massive die-backs.

Heini Kujala of the University of Helsinki in Finland, part of a team working out how global warming will affect Europe's amphibians and reptiles.

Of course, according to the GIGO rule, these efforts are limited by the climate models themselves, some of which produce weird results...Like Madagascar becoming overrun by tidal mangroves, which is a topographical impossibility.

As Aldus note:

"Even if biologists avoid the pitfalls associated with uncertain predictions, there is still the question of how best to reassess their conservation priorities in the light of the forecasts. If the models merely produce a list of reserves that are doomed to destruction, it will be a profoundly depressing exercise."

Looking at where our ecosystems might migrate is certainly profoundly depressing in Hawaii...since there aren't a lot of places for them to move.

As Carolyn Enquist notes, from the New Mexico experience, "it may become necessary to refocus conservation efforts on similar habitats in locations where the climate is changing less rapidly."

...Guess we could map that, too...

Published by Ken on August 20th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecosystems Research

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