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A Vulnerability-Based Strategy for Incorporating the Climate Threat in Conservation Planning: A Case Study from the British Columbia Central Interior

Timothy Kittel, Sara Howard, Hannah Horn, Gwen M. Kittel, Matthew Fairbarns, Pierre Iachetti


We present a vulnerability-based approach for considering climate as a threat in regional conservation planning.  The protocol is based on best available understanding of the climate sensitivity of species and systems of concern, has little reliance on climate or ecological change scenarios, and can be executed rapidly.  This approach has advantages of (1) not being tied to environmental scenarios with high uncertainty and (2) generating ‘no regrets’ strategies for planning for climate in the context of other threats.  The approach was implemented in an ecoregional assessment of the British Columbia Central Interior.  Regional strategies to reduce climate vulnerability were applied to set conservation targets and goals in the site-selection process.  These had a wide-ranging impact on both freshwater and terrestrial conservation assessments.  Selection of high-priority areas based on climate strategies generally (1) increased the number, size, and connectivity of selected areas, (2) included and expanded on areas selected using standard protocols, (3) drew more on moderately favorable areas, and (4) showed similar outcomes for different parts of the domain, but with some selection bias to more northern areas and higher reaches of drainages.  These planning outcomes adhere to the ‘no regrets’ goal—enhancing the adaptive capacity of species and systems to multiple threats while taking heed of a climate threat.  The resulting plan sets the regional stage for on-the-ground climate-wise strategies by providing for larger, less fragmented, and more connected conservation sites and with restoration as a complementary strategy to reduce ecosystem vulnerability.


climate change; conservation planning; ecoregional assessment; terrestrial ecosystem change; freshwater ecosystem change; species vulnerability to climate; British Columbia; Central Interior Ecoprovince; Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince; MARXAN

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