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Minimizing extinctions in a changing climate

Date:
September 19, 2011
Source:
University of Melbourne
Summary:
More species could be saved from extinction under climate change thanks to a new model scientists have developed to guide allocation of conservation funding.

More species could be saved from extinction under climate change thanks to a new model scientists have developed to guide allocation of conservation funding.

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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 is published on September 19 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"The best part about this model is that it can be applied to a range of environments, including many of Australia's native ecosystems, to suggest how to allocate funding," Dr Wintle said.

Although scientists knew that high extinction rates were predicted to increase under climate change, there was little advice to guide how money could be best spent to minimise extinctions.

"Our analysis supports the existing evidence that climate change will substantially accelerate extinction rates. So the first step is that we urgently need to limit global warming to avoid a mass extinction."

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

"We only have a limited amount of money to spend on managing biodiversity, so the question becomes, how do we most effectively allocate these funds?

"We needed a systematic approach to guide conservation investment to minimize extinctions and avoid wasting money. An advantage of our approach is that it makes the costs of a plan explicit, reducing the opportunity for politicization of decisions."

The scientists combined ecological predictions with an economic decision framework to prioritize conservation activities, and tested the model on one of world's most biodiverse and highly threatened ecosystems; the South African fynbos.

"An interesting result of our analysis is that the optimal allocation of money depends strongly on the yearly conservation budget. For example if budgets were small then the whole budget would be dedicated to fire-fighting capacity. However, if more money were available, investment would be directed toward avoiding habitat loss due to clearing and weed invasion," Dr Wintle said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brendan A. Wintle, Sarah A. Bekessy, David A. Keith, Brian W. van Wilgen, Mar Cabeza, Boris Schrφder, Silvia B. Carvalho, Alessandra Falcucci, Luigi Maiorano, Tracey J. Regan, Carlo Rondinini, Luigi Boitani, Hugh P. Possingham. Ecological–economic optimization of biodiversity conservation under climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1227

Cite This Page:

University of Melbourne. "Minimizing extinctions in a changing climate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919093854.htm>.
University of Melbourne. (2011, September 19). Minimizing extinctions in a changing climate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919093854.htm
University of Melbourne. "Minimizing extinctions in a changing climate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919093854.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

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