Protected Areas and Climate Change


Address for correspondence: Lee Hannah, Conservation International, Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, 2011 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202.


The study of protected areas and climate change has now spanned two decades. Pioneering work in the late 1980s recognized the potential implications of shifting species range boundaries for static protected areas. Many early recommendations for protected area design were general, emphasizing larger protected areas, buffer zones, and connectivity between reserves. There were limited practical tests of these suggestions. Development of modeling and conservation planning methods in the 1990s allowed more rigorous testing of concepts of reserve and connectivity function in a changing climate. These studies have shown decreasing species representation in existing reserves due to climate change, and the ability of new protected areas to help slow loss of representation in mid-century scenarios. Connectivity on protected area periphery seems more effective than corridors linking protected areas. However, corridors serving other purposes, such as large carnivore movement, may be useful for accommodating species range shifts as well. Assisted migration and ex situ management strategies to complement protected areas are being explored. Finally, in scenarios of the latter half of the century, protected areas and connectivity become increasingly expensive and decreasingly effective, indicating the importance of reducing human-induced climate change.