Letter | Published:

Habitat-based conservation strategies cannot compensate for climate-change-induced range loss

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 823827 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Anthropogenic habitat fragmentation represents a major obstacle to species shifting their range in response to climate change1. Conservation measures to increase the (meta-)population capacity2 and permeability of landscapes3 may help but the effectiveness of such measures in a warming climate has rarely been evaluated. Here, we simulate range dynamics of 51 species from three taxonomic groups (vascular plants, butterflies and grasshoppers) in Central Europe as driven by twenty-first-century climate scenarios and analyse how three habitat-based conservation strategies (establishing corridors, improving the landscape matrix, and protected area management) modify species’ projected range size changes. These simulations suggest that the conservation strategies considered are unable to save species from regional extinction. For those persisting, they reduce the magnitude of range loss in lowland but not in alpine species. Protected area management and corridor establishment are more effective than matrix improvement. However, none of the conservation strategies evaluated could fully compensate the negative impact of climate change for vascular plants, butterflies or grasshoppers in central Europe.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge funding by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund (Project Number KR11AC0K00355). The computational results presented have been achieved using the Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC). We are very grateful to the Floristic Mapping Projects of Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol, Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, the Austrian Working Group on Orthoptera, the Centre Suisse de Cartographie de la Faune, the Bayerisches Landesamt für Umwelt, the Tiroler Landesmuseen-Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H., the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, the Naturmuseum Südtirol, H. Habeler, J. Pennerstorfer, H. Höttinger, P. Detzel, S. Maas, A. Staudt and all other colleagues and institutions that provided distribution data for this study. We thank J. Settele and O. Schweiger (UFZ, Halle) for sharing and discussing demographic and dispersal traits of butterflies. Pictograms of plants and grasshoppers were derived from the PhyloPic (www.phylopic.org).

Author information

Author notes

    • Johannes Wessely
    •  & Karl Hülber

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Stefan Dullinger
    •  & Franz Essl

    These authors jointly supervised this work.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria

    • Johannes Wessely
    • , Karl Hülber
    • , Andreas Gattringer
    • , Michael Kuttner
    • , Dietmar Moser
    • , Stefan Dullinger
    •  & Franz Essl
  2. Department of Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, Environment Agency Austria, Spittelauer Lände 5, 1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Wolfgang Rabitsch
    • , Stefan Schindler
    •  & Franz Essl

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Contributions

S.D. and F.E. designed the study. F.E., S.S. and W.R. compiled the species data. M.K. and D.M. compiled the region and climate data. A.G., J.W., K.H., D.M., M.K. and S.D. performed the analyses. J.W., S.D., K.H. and F.E. wrote the text with further input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karl Hülber.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3414

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