Forest of Madagascar
Climate change is not a phrase you want to hear in terms of conservation biology. However, it is a phrase that appears more frequently in conversation as evidence of such a change becomes increasingly prominent in our daily lives. The increase in emission of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas has made headlines in the news and plans to combat global warming were a topic of interest in the recent presidential election. The consequences of global warming are not only evident in the melting ice caps and rising sea level, but also in range shifts of a variety of species. A recent article published in Conservation Biology addresses the costs associated with continued conservation of species whose ranges are moving out of protected areas. Busch and his colleges used 3 different climate scenarios to estimate the cost of conserving the ranges of 74 plant species endemic to the forests of Madagascar. They found that as the climate increase, the management actions needed to sustain a set protected area would increase as well. The most cost-effective conservation strategy would be to maintain the largest area of existing possible.
As the global climate begins to change, species are being forced to push northern boundaries of their ranges or move their ranges to higher latitudes. This northward movement poses an issue for conservation as some of the previously protected areas become unsuitable as reserves. In an ideal world this problem could be solved by shifting or expanding reserve ranges to encompass the new habitat of the endemic species. However, this would require a lot of money, time, and cooperation between organizations as well as with the native peoples. In areas such as Madagascar, where conservation plans include a focus on poverty alleviation, the target reserve range is set at the minimum area needed in order for a species to persist. Busch et al used climate projections in Madagascar between the years 2000-2080 under three assumptions: higher business-as-usual emissions (temperature increase by 3.1°C), lower than business-as-usual emissions (temperature increase by 2.2°C), and no climate change. Using this data they were able to predict species range shifts and estimate estimated the costs of maintaining a minimum protected area (10,000 ha) in Madagascar.
Busch and his colleges found that as greenhouse gas emission caused an increase in climate, 74 plant species in Madagascar experienced shifts in their ranges that resulted in a decrease in overlap with previously protected areas and existing forests. This means that as species move north, they are occupying unprotected areas of forests or areas where forests must be reestablished. They identified 5 additional costs required for species conservation under the threat of climate changes. These include the cost of designing and planning reserves that will remain suitable as a species range shifts, the cost of increasing management over larger protected areas, the cost of protecting forest areas that are not currently managed for conservation, the cost of reestablishing forests in areas where they are no longer thriving, and the cost of managing species outside their natural habitat. These findings showed a range of costs needed for maintaining conservation of these endemic plant species. The costs were lower for species that only required a few of the 5 additional costs previously mentioned (ex. Only required maintaining current protected areas and a small area of unprotected forest) while the costs for species that required all 5 measures could not be met under any climate change scenario.
Although climate change to some degree is certain, Busch et al were able to predict some positive results as well. They found that that under the scenario of lower than business-as-usual gas emissions, the cost of species conservation was reduced. If an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is made on a global scale, the cost for maintaining a stable 10,000 ha habitat from now until the year 2080 could be reduced from $1,242,000 – $935,900 on the lower end to $5,192,300 -$4,094,600 on the higher end. This could also drop the number of species from 11 to 8, which would require intensive conservation outside their natural habitat range. The implications of this study are important because the predictions can be applied to other tropical regions in which habitat destruction is occurring at a fast rate. Ultimately the most cost effective conservation strategy would encompass reduced deforestation, providing agricultural commodities or monetary benefits for the native people, and maintenance of currently protected and existing forests.
Future promise for the conservation of species under the threat of climate change is invested in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC has pledged to provide $100 billion per year (by the year 2020) to the “most vulnerable developing countries” for combating the detrimental effects of climate change on species conservation.
By M. Carrillo
Busch, J., Dave, R., Hannah, L. Cameron, A., Rasolohery, A., Roehrdanz, P., and Schatz, G. (2012). Climate Change and the Cost of Conserving Species in Madagascar. Conservation Biology. 26.3:408-419