Making decisions to conserve species under climate change

Shoo, L.P., Hoffmann, A.A., Garnett, S., Pressey, R.L., Williams, Y.M., Taylor, M., Falconi, L., Yates, C.J., Scott, J.K., Alagador, D., Williams, S.E. (2013), Making decisions to conserve species under climate change. Climatic Change. February 2013.


Severe impacts on biodiversity are predicted to arise from climate change. These impacts may not be adequately addressed by conventional approaches to conservation. As a result, additional management actions are now being considered. However, there is currently limited guidance to help decision makers choose which set of actions (and in what order) is most appropriate for species that are considered to be vulnerable. Here, we provide a decision framework for the full complement of actions aimed at conserving species under climate change from ongoing conservation in existing refugia through various forms of mobility enhancement to ex situ conservation outside the natural environment. We explicitly recognize that allocation of conservation resources toward particular actions may be governed by factors such as the likelihood of success, cost and likely co-benefits to non-target species in addition to perceived vulnerability of individual species. As such, we use expert judgment of probable tradeoffs in resource allocation to inform the sequential evaluation of proposed management interventions.

Resolving the ‘Environmentalist’s Paradox’, and the role of ecologists in advancing economic thinking

Megan Evans

Cross posted on

Aldo Leopold famously described the curse of an ecological education as “to be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise”.

© T. Toles

Ecologists do have a tendency for making dire warnings for the future, but for anyone concerned about the myriad of problems currently facing the Earth — climate change, an ongoing wave of species extinctions and impending peak oil, phosphate, water , (everything?) crises – the continued ignorance or ridicule of such warnings can be a frustrating experience. Environmental degradation and ecological overshoot isn’t just about losing cute plants and animals, given the widespread acceptance that long term human wellbeing ultimately rests on the ability for the Earth to supply us with ecosystem services.

In light of this doom and gloom, things were shaken up a bit late last year when an article1 published in Bioscience pointed out that in spite of declines in the majority of ecosystem services considered essential to human wellbeing by The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), aggregate human wellbeing (as measured by the Human Development Index) has risen continuously over the last 50 years. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne and the co-authors of the study suggested that these conflicting trends presented an ‘environmentalist’s paradox’ of sorts – do we really depend on nature to the extent that ecologists have led everyone to believe?

Continue reading Resolving the ‘Environmentalist’s Paradox’, and the role of ecologists in advancing economic thinking

Global perspectives from Copenhagen

Recent article from BIOLinks, The School of Biological Sciences Newsletter

Kerrie Wilson has recently returned from a productive (and very cold) couple of months working with researchers at the University of Copenhagen

particularly, Professors Niels Strange, Carsten Rahbek and Neil Burgess, world leaders in ecological economics, climate change science and conservation biology respectively.

During her time in Copenhagen, Kerrie participated in the COP15 meeting, where her professional focus was directed toward better understanding ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation (UQ News).

Continue reading Global perspectives from Copenhagen

Ecosystem protection: a solution to climate change

Article from the December edition of UQ News – see the original article here.

Delegates to the climate change conference in Copenhagen have been told that ecosystem-based strategies offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to climate change that can deliver multiple benefits.

This is according to a report from Dr Kerrie Wilson from UQ’s The Ecology Centre, who is attending Attending COP15 on the second day of plenary sessions.

“With many of the impacts of climate change already being felt, methods to adapt to climate change are a key focus of discussions at the climate change meeting in Copenhagen,” she said.

“Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change – referred to by some scientists as a ‘convenient solution to an inconvenient truth’ – are one mechanism on the negotiating table.”

Dr Wilson said the broader issue was the Reducing Emissions through Avoided Deforestation and Degradation mechanism (REDD) to reward nations and communities for voluntarily improving forest protection and management.

Greenhouse gas emissions from forests were caused by logging and conversion to agriculture, resulting in a release of stored carbon which was the largest source of emissions caused by humans, second to combustion of fossil fuels.

“The advisory group responsible for the technical support of mechanisms to lessen and adapt to climate change revealed optimism today that a decision on REDD will be made at this meeting,” she said.

“Acceptance of REDD as a viable means of reducing international emissions could offer a new platform and financing mechanism for protecting biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the livelihoods of those that depend on forests.”

Dr Wilson said representatives of developing nations were calling for enhanced capacity to promote readiness for REDD and secure funding commitments, along with acknowledgement of the role that indigenous communities can play in implementation and monitoring. The realities of REDD and issues surrounding corruption and law enforcement were also being openly discussed.

The original form of REDD was now being replaced by REDD +, where forest management, reforestation and carbon sequestration in other landscapes are also compensated.

With multiple objectives, and multiple ways to achieve these objectives, the careful planning and prioritisation for REDD implementation would become pivotal.

Dr Wilson said not everyone could be a winner and trade-offs between objectives were inevitable.

“Our research has proven that it is feasible to integrate the dual objective of conserving biodiversity and reducing the release of greenhouse gases. We can analyse in a transparent way the winners and losers, and thereby inform decision-making for REDD.”

Brief bio of Dr. Wilson
Dr Kerrie Wilson holds a degree in Environmental Science from The University of Queensland (top graduate in 1999, University Medallist). She obtained a DPhil in ecology from the University of Melbourne in 2004. Kerrie is author of approximately 50 scientific publications (including publications in Science and Nature) and one edited book. In 2009 she was awarded an Australian Leadership Award and an European Erasmus Mundus Fellowship. Kerrie has previously held leadership positions with non-government organisations including Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy Australia. Her research into the socio-economic aspects of conservation involves collaborations with national and international government and non-government organisations.

Media: Dr Kerrie Wilson (, +45-35-331-855 Copenhagen) or Tracey Franchi, School of Biological Sciences Communications Manager (+61-7-3365-4831).