Global change and the future of Nature 2000

Predicting the future effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation in Mediterranean ecosystems under climate change and novel fire regime scenarios

Global change challenges traditional conservation approaches based on the selection of static protected areas due to their limited ability to deal with the dynamic nature of driving forces relevant to biodiversity. The Natura 2000 network (N2000) constitutes a major milestone in biodiversity conservation in Europe, but the degree to which this static network will be able to reach its long-term conservation objectives raises concern. In this work, recently published in Diversity and Distribution, we have Fig1evaluated, in collaboration with Antoine Guisan’s lab (Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne), ICO (Catalan Institute of Ornithology) and EBCC (European Bird Census Council),  the future changes in the effectiveness of N2000 in a Mediterranean ecosystem between 2000 and 2050 under different combinations of climate and fire-induced land cover change scenarios.

To our knowledge, the present study is one of the most ambitious attempts so far to forecast biodiversity changes (i.e. multispecies responses) based on simulations of future vegetation dynamics and fire disturbance under climate change in a fire-prone Mediterranean region. Our findings show that although the future response of the species to these changes is species specific, large decreases in the amount of optimal habitats are expected for most of the species. In addition, our results also indicate that such a decrease in habitat suitability will be driven by both climate and land cover changes. Interestingly, the response of a high number of species to these changes is predicted to vary substantially depending on the fire management practices that will be implemented in the future.

Our results also provide the first assessment of the future effectiveness of the currently established protected areas for the conservation of bird species targeted by N2000 under different combinations of climate and novel fire regime scenarios. This study offers novel insights into how fire management policies in interaction with land abandonment and climate change might strongly impact on future biodiversity conservation in fire-prone Mediterranean ecosystems. Based on a hierarchical modelling approach integrating climate and land cover change scenarios at different scales, we draw attention to the key role that the current N2000 network might play in the near future. We also emphasize the need for an integrative and proactive conservation perspective wherein agricultural, forest and fire management policies should be considered inside and outside N2000 to effectively maintain key habitats for threatened birds in these types of ecosystems. In the light of our results, we underline the need for an explicit consideration of landscape dynamics when forecasting the future effectiveness of a network of protected areas in a context of global change.

Reference:

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Regos, A., D’Amen, M., Titeux, N., Herrando, S., Guisan, A., Brotons, L., 2015. Predicting the future effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation in Mediterranean ecosystems under climate change and novel fire regime scenarios. Divers. Distrib. n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/ddi.12375

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