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CHAPTER TWELVE Conservation Planning and Climate Change Effects The field of conservation biology seeks to provide scientific guidance for halting or slowing the current extinction wave and degradation of the planet’s biological diversity. To achieve this goal, conservation biologists attempt to answer fundamental questions, such as what to conserve, where best to conserve it, and how best to conserve it (Primack 2006). Can niche models help to address these questions? We believe that the answer is yes, particularly by helping researchers answer the “what” and “where” questions. However, using niche models to address conservation questions requires a solid understanding of the underlying concepts and methods. Inappropriate interpretation of the underlying theory and methods can lead to mistakes and potentially misleading interpretations of niche model outputs. Therefore, in this chapter, we introduce briefly the conceptual aspects of the “what” and “where” questions in conservation biology, and discuss how niche models can help address these questions. Topics addressed include inferences about extinction risk, identification of regions for species reintroductions, conservation reserve network planning, and considerations of how climate change may affect species’ distributions. Each of these conservation applications is discussed with respect to the conceptual framework laid out in chapters 2 and 3, and practical recommendations regarding calibration and evaluation of niche models are also offered. GENERALITIES If given the opportunity, conservation practitioners would certainly target and manage all genetically distinct populations of all species on Earth. In practice, however, biodiversity conservation must coexist with competing human interests (Primack 2006). Effective conservation action thus entails a difficult, but unavoidable, process of prioritization of limited opportunities and resources. CONSERVATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE 201 In addition, scientific and technical difficulties further complicate the situation: only a small proportion of global biodiversity is known (the Linnaean Shortfall) and distributions and abundance patterns of elements of biodiversity are also poorly understood (the Wallacean Shortfall; Whittaker et al. 2005). Arguably, even less understood are the networks of interactions existing among organisms and between organisms and physical and environmental systems—gaps in understanding that might be termed the Eltonian and Grinnellian shortfalls . The idea of measuring biodiversity value as the relative contribution of a particular biodiversity object to an overall set of objects was coined as the “complementarity principle” (Vane-Wright et al. 1991). Although several definitions of complementarity exist, the most general defines it as “a property of sets of objects that exists when at least some of the objects in one set differ from the objects in another set” (Williams 2001). Even though complementarity is most often associated with prioritization of areas for conservation (Margules and Pressey 2000), the original formulation was broader, providing a rationale for ranking species as well as areas regarding relative biodiversity value (Vane-Wright 1996). These ideas have had greatest impact on prioritization of areas for conservation, probably because of theoretical (Erwin 1991) and technical (Faith 1993) difficulties with implementation of the principle for organisms. The idea of urgency of conservation action was discussed by Norman Myers in his famous allusion to the concept of triage, in which wounded soldiers are assigned priority based on who can be saved, who can probably survive without attention, and who will die regardless of how much attention is received (Myers 1979). As such, extinction risk is a common currency of conservation priority. One example of prioritization at the site level is mapping biodiversity hotspots, a concept championed by Myers et al. (2000) and promoted in particular by Conservation International (Mittermeier et al. 1998). CONNECTION TO THEORY We have argued that conservation problems can be classified into broad questions—the “what” question entails mainly measurement of conservation priorities at the level of species or populations, whereas the “where” question entails both measurement of value (complementarity) and priority at the level of sites. The diversity of these challenges makes for distinct considerations when applying niche modeling to conservation. In light of this diversity, we review each sort of application separately. 202 CHAPTER 12 Estimating Extinction Risk for Species The process of extinction is one of population reduction, which is manifested as range loss and eventually extinction of the species. Some mechanisms leading to such losses involve reduction of quantity and quality of suitable areas for a species, a process that can be modeled fairly easily. For example, Brooks et al. (1997) used species-area relationships derived from island biogeography theory (MacArthur and Wilson 1967) to predict losses of forest species following deforestation of insular systems in the Philippines and Indonesia. Thomas et al. (2004a) extended...


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