Incorporating geodiversity into conservation decisions

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Comer, Patrick J., Pressey, Robert L., Hunter, Malcolm L. Jr., Schloss, Carrie A., Buttrick, Steven C., Heller, Nicole E., Tirpak, John M., Faith, Daniel P., Cross, Molly S. and Shaffer, Mark L.
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In a rapidly changing climate, conservation practitioners could better use geodiversity in a broad range of conservation decisions. We explored selected avenues through which this integration might improve decision making and organized them within the adaptive management cycle of assessment, planning, implementation, and monitoring. Geodiversity is seldom referenced in predominant environmental law and policy. With most natural resource agencies mandated to conserve certain categories of species, agency personnel are challenged to find ways to practically implement new directives aimed at coping with climate change while retaining their species-centered mandate. Ecoregions and ecological classifications provide clear mechanisms to consider geodiversity in plans or decisions, the inclusion of which will help foster the resilience of conservation to climate change. Methods for biodiversity assessment, such as gap analysis, climate change vulnerability analysis, and ecological process modeling, can readily accommodate inclusion of a geophysical component. We adapted others’ approaches for characterizing landscapes along a continuum of climate change vulnerability for the biota they support from resistant, to resilient, to susceptible, and to sensitive and then summarized options for integrating geodiversity into planning in each landscape type. In landscapes that are relatively resistant to climate change, options exist to fully represent geodiversity while ensuring that dynamic ecological processes can change over time. In more susceptible landscapes, strategies aiming to maintain or restore ecosystem resilience and connectivity are paramount. Implementing actions on the ground requires understanding of geophysical constraints on species and an increasingly nimble approach to establishing management and restoration goals. Because decisions that are implemented today will be revisited and amended into the future, increasingly sophisticated forms of monitoring and adaptation will be required to ensure that conservation efforts fully consider the value of geodiversity for supporting biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.


Comer, P. J., R. L. Pressey, M. L. Hunter, C. A. Schloss, S. C. Buttrick, N. E. Heller, J. M. Tirpak, D. P. Faith, M. S. Cross, and M. L. Shaffer. 2015. Incorporating geodiversity into conservation decisions. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12508