Much of the recent literature on climate change and connectivity has focused on the viability of protected area networks, and whether they will remain useful as landscapes shift. Recent research has highlighted several key findings about the fate of protected area networks, including:
- Shifting temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea will increase overall connectivity, although larval dispersal will decrease and cause larvae to be more concentrated in smaller areas;
- Low-elevation tropical protected areas are not well connected to each other or to high-elevation regions, where species are likely to shift ranges;
- Protected area networks need to be dynamic, and some areas should actually lose protected status over time in order to divert limited resources to conserving more useful landscapes;
- Protected area networks in Europe are likely to maintain strong connectivity for some species under climate change, although not all species will remain connected;
- Unlike the protected areas network in Europe, protected areas in tropical locations such as Madagascar are unlikely to be sufficient enough to maintain biodiversity in the future under climate change
Added to this body of literature is recent research by Prieto-Torres et al., recently published in Global Change Biology, examining the future of protected area networks in Mexico. Focusing on tropical dry forests, they used ecological niche modeling to project the distribution of these forests under climate change along with 30 plant and bird species that inhabit them.
They found that although tropical dry forests are likely to persist, they will occupy areas outside their current range, and the current Mexican protected areas network is not sufficient to address this shift. Like much of the previous research on these networks, they advocate for dynamic protected areas that shift with the landscape and are connected through ecological corridors. They add more evidence to the growing body of work that shows protected areas need to be dynamic and well-connected in order to remain relevant under future climate change.
Prieto-Torres, D. A., A. G. Navarro-Sigüenza, D. Santiago-Alarcon, and O. R. Rojas-Soto. 2016. Response of the endangered tropical dry forests to climate change and the role of Mexican Protected Area for their conservation. Global Change Biology 22(1): 364-379.