Climate change and nature conservation: Implications for policy and practice in Britain and Ireland

Hossell, J.E.; Ellis, N.E.; Harley, M.J.; Hepburn, I.R.

Journal for Nature Conservation 11(1): 67-73

2003


ISSN/ISBN: 1617-1381
DOI: 10.1078/1617-1381-00034
Accession: 010327392

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Abstract
In Britain and Ireland, protection for nature conservation purposes has largely relied upon the designation of sites for the conservation of habitats and species. However, the results of predictive models indicate that changes in suitable climate space for individual species will be seen at regional and national scales over the coming decades. Species are also known to respond in different ways and at different rates to climate change, which is likely to affect the structure and function of existing ecosystems in equally varied ways. However, it is important that nature conservation policies and practices should consider the likely impacts of climate change on species, habitats and protected areas, but still remain flexible enough to cope with any surprise event. Models therefore ought to ensure that predictions cover a broad range of possible responses. Management options may need to include dynamic solutions such as strategically positioning new sites for climate-sensitive species as their climate space changes and implementing more flexible wider-countryside measures to enable species to disperse across an otherwise inhospitable landscape. Conservation objectives and targets therefore need to be considered at the site, national and international levels. In some situations, a valid management strategy may be to recognise that the magnitude of climate change will overwhelm any effort to protect the species or habitat type and that little can be done to prevent responses to climate change. Preservation is expected to continue to have an important role in ensuring the protection of some habitats and species, but is expected to become increasingly untenable.