Redesigning biodiversity conservation projects for climate change: examples from the field

Few conservation projects consider climate impacts or have a process for developing adaptation strategies. To advance climate adaptation for biodiversity conservation, we tested a step-by-step approach to developing adaptation strategies with 20 projects from diverse geographies. Project teams assessed likely climate impacts using historical climate data, future climate predictions, expert input, and scientific literature. They then developed adaptation strategies that considered ecosystems and species of concern, project goals, climate impacts, and indicators of progress. Project teams identified 176 likely climate impacts and developed adaptation strategies to address 42 of these impacts. The most common impacts were to habitat quantity or quality, and to hydrologic regimes. Nearly half of expected impacts were temperature-mediated. Twelve projects indicated that the project focus, either focal ecosystems and species or project boundaries, need to change as a result of considering climate impacts. More than half of the adaptation strategies were resistance strategies aimed at preserving the status quo. The rest aimed to make ecosystems and species more resilient in the face of expected changes. All projects altered strategies in some way, either by adding new actions, or by adjusting existing actions. Habitat restoration and enactment of policies and regulations were the most frequently prescribed, though every adaptation strategy required a unique combination of actions. While the effectiveness of these adaptation strategies remains to be evaluated, the application of consistent guidance has yielded important early lessons about how, when, and how often conservation projects may need to be modified to adapt to climate change.