Author contributions: T.K. and V.C.R. conceived the ideas and led the writing; T.H., J.O. and G.S. contributed to the writing.
Refugee species: which historic baseline should inform conservation planning?
Article first published online: 3 OCT 2012
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Diversity and Distributions
Volume 18, Issue 12, pages 1258–1261, December 2012
How to Cite
Kuemmerle, T., Hickler, T., Olofsson, J., Schurgers, G., Radeloff, V. C. (2012), Refugee species: which historic baseline should inform conservation planning?. Diversity and Distributions, 18: 1258–1261. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12013
- Issue published online: 6 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 3 OCT 2012
- Einstein Foundation
- European Commission. Grant Numbers: ECOCHANGE, FP6-036866, VOLANTE, FP7-265104
- NASA Biodiversity and NASA Land Cover and Land Use Change programs and the LOEWE initiative for scientific and economic excellence of the German federal state of Hesse
- Conservation planning;
- European bison;
- refugee species;
- species distribution models
Understanding species' historical ranges can provide important information for conservation planning in the face of environmental change. Cromsigt et al. (this issue) comment on our recent European bison (Bison bonasus) range reconstruction, suggesting that bison were already 8000 years ago a refugee species (i.e. restricted to marginal habitat due to past human pressure) and that species distribution models (SDM) are generally of limited use for refugee species conservation. While we welcome this discussion, we find no evidence for the claim that human pressure prior to 8000 BP determined where bison occurred. More importantly, as human pressure is generally high and increasing, attempts to restore species across their former range may fail where the factors that relegated species into refugee status are still at play or where their optimal habitat has vanished. Identifying areas where human pressure is low and where refugee species have persisted over the last millennia is crucial, and SDM based on historical data are important for doing so. Refugee species suffer from the shifting baseline syndrome, but careful reality checks are needed and all available data should be considered before determining the baseline that should inform conservation planning.