Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Steps in the right direction for conservation

Date:
October 17, 2012
Source:
University of York
Summary:
As the climate changes, conservationists are divided over the most effective way to preserve animal and plant diversity because they cannot simply preserve the status quo. Ensuring species can shift to track the climate to which they are suited is a complex problem, especially when there are competing demands on land use. A simple prediction is that more habitat would help species to shift, but it is not obvious what the best spatial locations for habitat would be.

As the climate changes, conservationists are divided over the most effective way to preserve animal and plant diversity because they cannot simply preserve the status quo. Ensuring species can shift to track the climate to which they are suited is a complex problem, especially when there are competing demands on land use. A simple prediction is that more habitat would help species to shift, but it is not obvious what the best spatial locations for habitat would be.

A new study led by scientists at the University of York says that well placed habitat "stepping stones" would lead to faster range expansion than the equivalent amount and quality of habitat tacked onto existing sites. The result applies to situations where a species will have to cross gaps of several times the distance one individual can normally traverse, i.e. to species whose habitat is fairly rare.

This will be relevant to numerous species that are already threatened for reasons other than climate change, and have very little habitat available. For example, the most important wildlife sites in Europe (called the Natura 2000 sites) make up 18 per cent of the land area, and the habitat for any one priority species will be much less than that.

The study, which is published in PLOS ONE, involved researchers from the Universities of York, Leeds and Aberdeen.

Lead author Dr Jenny Hodgson, of the Department of Biology at York, said: "Species in these fragmented habitats would need to make a series of "leapfrogging" moves over multiple generations to colonise new landscapes. Our research offers a way to identify existing chains of habitat patches that can enable this leapfrogging, but that may not seem obviously connected when looking at a map. When no suitable chains exist, the method can also help to plan new habitat stepping stones in the gaps that will be most difficult to cross."

The study is ground-breaking because it shows that the speed of spreading through a landscape is not reliably related to the probability of extinction that would be associated with the same landscape. Understandably, conservation planning has usually focused on minimising the probability of extinction from landscapes where a species is already established. This study offers the strongest evidence yet that a "more of the same" conservation policy will not be efficient in an era of climate change.

Co-author Dr Stephen Cornell, from the Faculty of Biological Sciences, at the University of Leeds, said: "We understand very well what can prevent populations going extinct, but until now we have not sufficiently understood what can help them to spread: the underlying science was missing.

"Our work shows that although we cannot maximise both of these goals at once, with a limited amount of habitat, we can find compromise solutions that perform pretty well on both counts."

Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said: "The methods we developed will help us identify where real species face gaps between habitats that they will need to cross. The question will then be whether it is practical to create new habitat in these gaps, and whether the re-creation can be achieved quickly enough. We may need to focus on species that nearly have enough habitat to start spreading, and where addition of just a small amount of extra habitat would enable them to do so."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J.A. Hodgson, C.D. Thomas, C. Dytham, J.M.J. Travis and S.J. Cornell. The speed of range shifts in fragmented landscapes. PLOS ONE, 2012 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047141

Cite This Page:

University of York. "Steps in the right direction for conservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121017180912.htm>.
University of York. (2012, October 17). Steps in the right direction for conservation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121017180912.htm
University of York. "Steps in the right direction for conservation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121017180912.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins