Interactions between climate change and land use change on biodiversity: attribution problems, risks, and opportunities



Global change drivers are known to interact in their effects on biodiversity, but much research to date ignores this complexity. As a consequence, there are problems in the attribution of biodiversity change to different drivers and, therefore, our ability to manage habitats and landscapes appropriately. Few studies explicitly acknowledge and account for interactive (i.e., nonadditive) effects of land use and climate change on biodiversity. One reason is that the mechanisms by which drivers interact are poorly understood. We evaluate such mechanisms, including interactions between demographic parameters, evolutionary trade-offs and synergies and threshold effects of population size and patch occupancy on population persistence. Other reasons for the lack of appropriate research are limited data availability and analytical issues in addressing interaction effects. We highlight the influence that attribution errors can have on biodiversity projections and discuss experimental designs and analytical tools suited to this challenge. Finally, we summarize the risks and opportunities provided by the existence of interaction effects. Risks include ineffective conservation management; but opportunities also arise, whereby the negative impacts of climate change on biodiversity can be reduced through appropriate land management as an adaptation measure. We hope that increasing the understanding of key mechanisms underlying interaction effects and discussing appropriate experimental and analytical designs for attribution will help researchers, policy makers, and conservation practitioners to better minimize risks and exploit opportunities provided by land use-climate change interactions.

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Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.