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Press release NATURE

The most effective conservation measures for minimizing extinction risk under climate change for one of the world's most threatened ecosystems are investigated in a paper published online this week in Nature Climate Change.

Brendan Wintle and co-workers combined ecological predictions with an economic decision framework to prioritize conservation activities between fire-risk management and habitat loss minimization in the endangered South African fynbos.

This analysis revealed a counterintuitive optimal investment strategy that switched twice between different options as the available budget increased. They argue that these findings show that the choice of how much to invest is as important as determining where to invest and what actions to take.

It is well established that climate change poses significant risks to biodiversity, yet little information exists to help conservation planners account for these risks within realistic budgets. Prioritization methods such as the one reported in this study can be applied at any scale to minimize species loss and evaluate the robustness of decisions.

The international team, led by Dr Brendan Wintle of the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, is the first to develop a pioneering decision-support model that incorporates both ecological and economic information to guide conservation investment in the face of climate change. The work was published on 19 September in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"This model can equally be applied to a range of environments, including many of Europe's ecosystems, to suggest how to allocate conservation funding," Dr Cabeza said.

"Given that we are probably committed to a 2 degree warming by 2050, we need to develop effective strategies for minimizing the number of species that go extinct as a result".

"Even when committing to a 2 degree warming by 2050, we need to develop effective strategies for minimizing the number of species that go extinct as a result. Such conservation strategies might be more necessary, and or different, if the warming is 4 degrees. The RESPONSES project is investigating these scenarios for Europe"

Nature September 2011
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1227
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