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That the climate is changing around us is no longer considered a hypothetical ‘what if?’ scenario. Climate change is evident as plants and animals reproduce earlier in the year and growing seasons in temperate latitudes become longer. The consequences of the projected changes for global biodiversity and protected areas are largely unknown. In March 2001, a meeting and a workshop sponsored by Conservation International were held in Cambridge, UK, to discuss how conservation policy should be shaped to accommodate future climate change.

The migration of species in response to climate change, leading to a broader movement of community and biome boundaries, is clearly a global phenomenon but it has also to be seen at the scale of the undersized nature reserve that typifies protected areas in many countries. Nature reserves were often designated to protect a given organism or community assuming constant conditions. As climates change existing reserve networks will be seen to be too small and fragmented to facilitate a full migrational response. One challenge that faces conservationists is to reassure the public and politicians that past investments in protecting land from development have not been wasted, while at the same time recognizing that areas set aside specifically to protect a given species may no longer be suitable for that purpose. Moving from a static to a dynamic view of how to conserve species, biodiversity and landscapes calls for a reinvention of conservation biology.

The papers presented at the meeting, and then revised in the light of the following workshop form the backbone of this issue. One paper, by Berry et al., was submitted independently. We would particularly like to thank the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science of Conservation International for facilitating the workshop that led to this special issue. Finally, we thank the journal referees for their contribution to this set of papers.