• adaptation;
  • climate change;
  • conference;
  • conservation;
  • new directions;
  • practitioners;
  • resilience

In the last 5 years, research into adaptation for conservation and land management has developed rapidly, and a wide range of initiatives have started within conservation organizations. This rapid growth prompted Natural England and the British Ecological Society to sponsor a conference on Adapting Conservation to a Changing Climate (Morecroft et al. 2011) in January 2011 in London. The conference brought together scientists, conservationists and policy makers to review recent research and the development of practical application measures. This special profile sees the publication of five papers resulting from that meeting.

The papers present an interesting insight into some current directions in work on climate change adaptation. Research on the impact of climate change has placed considerable emphasis on changing species distributions and projections for how the climate envelope of species might shift under different climate change scenarios. Initial thinking on adaptation often took this as a starting point and focused on how to facilitate changes in species ranges. This continues to be an important issue but there has been increasing recognition of the importance of landscape and site scale issues, controlling whether and how a species might move across a landscape. So, in this series of papers, Lawson et al. (2012) look at the expanding range margin and how the capacity of a species to spread into new areas will be controlled by land management decisions. Oliver et al. (2012) look at the relationship between distribution and population density and stability – important factors in determining long-term persistence of species. Changing distributions are not the only aspect of climate change adaptation, however. There has been an increasing realization that there are a range of factors that make species and communities more or less likely to persist within their current distribution – adaptation is not simply about facilitating changing distributions. Maximizing the potential to maintain species where they are is particularly important for species with limited capacity to disperse and Norris, Hobson & Ibisch (2012) look at how different microclimates are associated with different forest characteristics. In different ways, all these papers contribute to our understanding of ecological networks and the role they can play in climate change adaptation. Newton et al. (2012) also consider ecological networks and investigate how ecosystem services can be evaluated within the conceptual frame work of networks. One of the major developments in ecology over the last decade has been the development of approaches to assessing ecosystem services, and it is important that climate change adaptation and the ecosystem approach go hand in hand.

Morecroft et al. 2012 present an approach to translating scientific understanding of resilience into practical climate change adaptation. This is an example of a more general point: climate change adaptation is an intrinsically applied issue and needs both the practical conservationist and the research ecologist. Climate change poses a profound challenge to conservationists. The starting point for conservation has been protecting the species, habitats and landscapes we have and where possible restoring what has been lost. Going into the future, this may not be possible in many cases. Similarly, tried and tested techniques may start to lose their effectiveness. As climate change – and other environmental changes – develop further, there will be a critical need to develop and test adaptation measures. A strong partnership between conservation practitioners and researchers will be essential to making this happen.


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  2. References
  • Lawson, C., Bennie, J., Thomas, C., Hodgson, J. & Wilson, R. (2012) Local and landscape management of an expanding range margin under climate change. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 552561.
  • Morecroft, M.D., Duffield, S.J., Margerison, C. & Wayman, E. (2011) Adapting conservation to a changing climate. Natural England Commissioned Reports, 081.
  • Morecroft, M.D., Crick, H.Q.P., Duffield, S.J. & Macgregor, N.A. (2012) Resilience to climate change: translating principles into practice. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 547551.
  • Newton, A., Hodder, K., Cantarello, E., Perrella, L., Birch, J., Robins, J., Douglas, S., Moody, C. & Cordingley, J. (2012) Cost-benefit analysis of ecological networks assessed through spatial analysis of ecosystem services. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 571580.
  • Norris, C., Hobson, P. & Ibisch, P. (2012) Microclimate and vegetation function as indicators of forest thermodynamic efficiency. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 562570.
  • Oliver, T., Gillings, S., Girardello, M., Rapacciuolo, G., Brereton, T., Siriwardena, G., Roy, D., Pywell, R. & Fuller, R. (2012) Population density but not stability can be predicted from species distribution models. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 581590.