Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: A review of 22 years of recommendations

Heller, Nicole E. and Zavaleta, Erika S.

Climate change creates new challenges for biodiversity conservation. Species ranges and ecological dynamics are already responding to recent climate shifts, and current reserves will not continue to support all species they were designed to protect. These problems are exacerbated by other global changes. Scholarly articles recommending measures to adapt conservation to climate change have proliferated over the last 22 years. We systematically reviewed this literature to explore what potential solutions it has identified and what consensus and direction it provides to cope with climate change. Several consistent recommendations emerge for action at diverse spatial scales, requiring leadership by diverse actors. Broadly, adaptation requires improved regional institutional coordination, expanded spatial and temporal perspective, incorporation of climate change scenarios into all planning and action, and greater effort to address multiple threats and global change drivers simultaneously in ways that are responsive to and inclusive of human communities. However, in the case of many recommendations the how, by whom, and under what conditions they can be implemented is not specified. We synthesize recommendations with respect to three likely conservation pathways: regional planning; site-scale management; and modification of existing conservation plans. We identify major gaps, including the need for (1) more specific, operational examples of adaptation principles that are consistent with unavoidable uncertainty about the future; (2) a practical adaptation planning process to guide selection and integration of recommendations into existing policies and programs; and (3) greater integration of social science into an endeavor that, although dominated by ecology, increasingly recommends extension beyond reserves and into human-occupied landscapes.


Heller, N. E., and E. S. Zavaleta. 2009. Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: A review of 22 years of recommendations. Biological Conservation 142:14-32. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2008.10.006.