Assessing the Impacts of Future Climate Change on Protected Area Networks: A Method to Simulate Individual Species' Responses
Global climate change, along with continued habitat loss and fragmentation, is now recognized as being a major threat to future biodiversity. There is a very real threat to species, arising from the need to shift their ranges in the future to track regions of suitable climate. The Important Bird Area (IBA) network is a series of sites designed to conserve avian diversity in the face of current threats from factors such as habitat loss and fragmentation. However, in common with other networks, the IBA network is based on the assumption that the climate will remain unchanged in the future. In this article, we provide a method to simulate the occurrence of species of conservation concern in protected areas, which could be used as a first-step approach to assess the potential impacts of climate change upon such species in protected areas. We use species-climate response surface models to relate the occurrence of 12 biome-restricted African species to climate data at a coarse (quarter degree-degree latitude-longitude) resolution and then intersect the grid model output with IBA outlines to simulate the occurrence of the species in South African IBAs. Our results demonstrate that this relatively simple technique provides good simulations of current species' occurrence in protected areas. We then use basic habitat data for IBAs along with habitat preference data for the species to reduce over-prediction and further improve predictive ability. This approach can be used with future climate change scenarios to highlight vulnerable species in IBAs in the future and allow practical recommendations to be made to enhance the IBA network and minimize the predicted impacts of climate change. Keywords: Biodiversity, Climate change, Climate envelope modelling, Protected area network.