Climate Change and the Conservation Challenge
The two threats to biodiversity of rapid climate change and rapidly increasing human alteration of the natural environment portend an extinction crisis of profound proportions. Habitat fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, and other anthropogenically introduced ecosystem stressors will behave synergistically with climate change, amplifying its impacts and accelerating the rate and magnitude of species and ecosystem decline. While many climate-adaptive conservation strategies have long been part of the conservation agenda – land acquisition, pollutant and invasive species control, and habitat restoration – conservationists must now meet the challenge of adapting these and other tools to the needs of an increasingly dynamic biodiversity in an increasingly dynamic and unpredictable world. Species range shifts, altered precipitation patterns, extreme events, and other manifestations of climate change will play themselves out, and so will need to be addressed, at the bioregional scale, a scale far surpassing that of individual reserves and reserve networks. Enhancing ecosystem resilience and promoting biodiversity values in the broader landscape matrix surrounding protected areas may prove essential to mitigating and managing the synergistic impacts of climate change and human development on the natural world. Only from the vantage point and scale of “whole landscapes” can future human interests in land be balanced with changing biodiversity needs.