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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • biodiversity;
  • conservation prioritization;
  • habitat quality;
  • landscape planning;
  • spatial ecology;
  • species–area relationship;
  • uncertainty

Summary

1. The challenge of climate change forces us to re-examine the assumptions underlying conservation planning.

2. Increasing ‘connectivity’ has emerged as the most favoured option for conservation in the face of climate change.

3. We argue that the importance of connectivity is being overemphasized: quantifying the benefits of connectivity per se is plagued with uncertainty, and connectivity can be co-incidentally improved by targeting more concrete metrics: habitat area and habitat quality.

4.Synthesis and applications. Before investing in connectivity projects, conservation practitioners should analyse the benefits expected to arise from increasing connectivity and compare them with alternative investments, to ensure as much biodiversity conservation and resilience to climate change as possible within their budget. Strategies that we expect to remain robust in the face of climate change include maintaining and increasing the area of high quality habitats, prioritizing areas that have high environmental heterogeneity and controlling other anthropogenic threatening processes.