Climate change threatens European conservation areas.
Bottom Line: Conservation areas are selected without taking into account the effects of climate change.How effectively would such areas conserve biodiversity under climate change?Protected areas are expected to retain climatic suitability for species better than unprotected areas (P < 0.001), but Natura 2000 areas retain climate suitability for species no better and sometimes less effectively than unprotected areas.
Affiliation: Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, 28006, Madrid, Spain. firstname.lastname@example.orgShow MeSH
Mentions: Most vertebrate and plant species (58 ± 2.6%; Median ± SD) are projected to lose suitable climate conditions within existing protected areas by 2080 (Fig. 1, full set of results in Table S1). Birds and mammals are projected to have greater proportions of loser than winner species in all scenarios, whereas amphibians are projected to have more losers than winners under A1FI and A2 and more winners under B1 and B2 scenarios (Fig. 1). Increases in climate suitability for species are expected for most reptiles in protected areas under all emission scenarios (67 ± 3.7%). This is unsurprising as ectothermic species are known to benefit from warming in temperate regions (Araújo et al. 2006), although local behaviour and population dynamics can alter, sometimes reverse, coarse projections from bioclimatic models (Sinervo et al. 2010). Amphibians are also ectotherms but they do not benefit from increases in aridity, which is the prediction for the southwest of Europe under the A1FI and A2 scenarios (Schroter et al. 2005). Projections also indicate that negative impacts of climate change are expected to be high among species of European conservation concern. Bird & Habitat Directive species (n=323) have higher proportions of plant and animal species losing climatic suitability in the Natura 2000 (63 ± 2.1%, Table S2) than species in protected areas. In fact, the Natura 2000 is less effective in retaining suitable climate for plant species than sets of randomly selected unprotected areas of the same total area (P<0.001 for A1FI, A2, B1; P<0.05 for B2). For half of the remaining combinations of taxonomic groups and scenarios, the Natura 2000 provides no better buffer against climate change than areas outside the network, with the exception of birds (P<0.001) (Fig. 1). In contrast, nationally designated protected areas are projected to retain climatic suitability for species better than randomly selected unprotected areas with the same total area (P<0.001). The one exception is amphibian species, under the A1FI scenario, where protected areas provide no better protection than randomly chosen unprotected areas. When threatened species are examined (n=53), protected areas retain climatic suitability no better than randomly selected unprotected areas for birds and reptiles (under the A1FI and A2 scenario), but they retain suitable ranges for the other taxa and climate scenarios well (P<0.05 or 0.01, see Table S1). Differences in changes of climate suitability between protected areas and Natura 2000 are partly related with topography. Most protected areas are in mountains (median altitude = 367.40 m) or rugged environments (median SD of altitude = 814.90). The Natura 2000 also prioritizes farmlands and these are located in lower (median altitude = 324.69) and flatter lands (median SD of altitude = 638.08). Notice, altitude and SD of altitude for the Natura 2000 were measured for the fraction of land that does not overlap with protected areas. Differences in altitude (Wilcoxon W = 13.4e6) and SD of altitude (W = 11.6e6) between protected and Natura 2000 areas are significantly different (P < 0.001). Because proportional range losses arising from climate change are usually more pronounced in flatlands than in rugged terrains (Peterson 2003; Loarie et al. 2009), the Natura 2000 is more vulnerable to climate change.
Affiliation: Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, 28006, Madrid, Spain. email@example.com