Biodiversity Conservation, Global Change and Uncertainties: Reconciling Biodiversity Persistence and Human Development upon Dynamic Environments
- Universidade de Évora(líder)
- Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (ISEG)(parceiro)
- NOVA.ID.FCT - Associação para a Inovação e Desenvolvimento da FCT(parceiro)
Biodiversity conservation is a crisis discipline: it urges to find measures to reverse the effects of intense threats acting over biodiversity; it conflicts with dominant and competing socioeconomic activities; and it typically runs under tight budgets. Additionally, ecological and socioeconomic environments are tailored by dynamic processes turning analysis and decisions on conservation actions very complex. RECONCILE aims at addressing major and actual conservation problems with the ultimate goal of ensuring long-term persistence of species by reconciling conservation and socioeconomy. To this end RECONCILE gathers experts from different areas such as ecology, conservation, mathematics, econometrics, computer and communication sciences. The ultimate goal is to provide conceptually-sound and efficient decision support-tools (ie. software) to assist optimized, long-term area prioritization in three wide-range problems issued in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Every year, large investments in biodiversity conservation are made by governments, NGOs, and private sector [1-2] but, given the current global funding crisis, the available resources should be carefully distributed in space and time, using a clear prioritization program. Therefore, novel conservation policies should: 1) be strategic and produce the greatest possible benefit for the money invested ; 2) minimize conflicts with established socioeconomic activities; and 3) accommodate the pervasive impacts of global threats and processes, like climate change (CC) . Central to the credibility of such policies, conservation needs to be demonstrably efficient, transparent and accountable thus reinforcing the importance of systematic decision protocols and support tools to solve such non-trivial problems.
CC impacts the geography of species and therefore intervenes with standard, static-based conservation practices that protect areas perpetually to abate the impacts of (local) threats to biodiversity [5-6]. However, global stressors and strong human development call conservation planning to; 1) entangle dynamism and adaptiveness; 2) reduce as possible focal area and socioeconomic conflicts, and 3) act at wider spatial and temporal scales, in order to match the scale of global threats and to retrieve the best conservation outcomes with the least amount of investment . Problems such as:
-Where and when to efficiently prioritize conservation actions to abate CC impacts on species distributions?
-How to optimally integrate cooperation opportunities between countries in order to establish effective cross-border climate-change conservation plans (CCCP)?
-How to quantify trade-offs between socioeconomic and conservation returns (ie. a reconciliation index) under CC?
need to be considered at continental-to-global levels and fully integrated by countries in order to fulfill their international commitments (eg. Aichi targets). RECONCILE outputs will contribute to scientifically support such decisions at wide geographic scales.
Studies on spatial conservation planning (SCP) under CC have been mostly carried out using Marxan or Zonation software (Tab1.pdf). Although highly adaptable to embrace distinct conservation problems these software were not originally developed to handle ecological, environmental and socioeconomic dynamics. Under such contexts they deliver suboptimal solutions, far from the most effective or efficient ones. RECONCILE will resolve such flaws by producing software explicitly developed to handle such complexities at high spatial, temporal and taxonomic resolutions.
RECONCILE will work around a multidisciplinary environment linking conceptual advances, and software development to assist optimized SCP proposals. DA (PI) is a conservation biologist (starting a FCT postdoctoral grant) working around concept development and applications in SCP. MBA is a world expert in CC impacts over biodiversity and has settled the ground for the use of bioclimatic modelling in ecology. JOC is a mathematician with relevant contribution to the field of reserve design. NS has conducted studies on socioeconomic drivers promoting conservation success at the regional to country levels. RB is a skilful programmer that recently created software to handle connectivity problems. DN is a qualified GIS technician. NM is expert in science communication and management. HP is a world leader in conservation planning with hundreds of papers covering distinct conceptual conservation policies. The core team members are already collaborating in related issues.
RECONCILE will contribute to optimize wide scale SCP, assisting governments to fulfill their mandates within CBD and IPBES, in order to improve biodiversity persistence: the ultimate conservation goal.
Objectives, activities and expected/achieved results
As AC afetam a geografia das espécies e desta forma as práticas tradicionais de conservação, baseadas na proteção perpétua de áreas, com o objetivo de atenuar ameaças locais à biodiversidade [5-6]. Contudo, pressões humanas de carater global, impelem a que o planeamento em conservação deva: 1)incorporar dinamismo e adaptatividade; 2)reduzir ao máximo a área a proteger e os conflitos com outras atividades, e; 3)atuar a escalas espaciais e temporais extensas, equivalentes às das ameaças globais e desta forma obter os maior proveitos conservacionistas . Problemas como:
-Onde e quando prioritizar a seleção de áreas de forma eficiente na assitência das espécies aos efeitos das AC?
-Como integrar de forma otimizada as oportunidades de cooperação entre países de forma a se estabelecerem planos de conservação trans-fronteiriços eficientes em contextos de AC?
-Como quantificar o equilíbrio entre os proveitos socioeconómicos e conservacionistas (ie. índice de reconciliação) sob AC?
devem ser considerados à escala continental-global e integrados de forma a que os governos cumpram os compromissos internacionais assumidos (metas 2020 para a biodiversidade). As abordagens de RECONCILE permitirão dar um contributo científico neste sentido.
RECONCILE will handle data of distinct nature:
1) Species distribution models:
Attempts to predict CC impacts on species’ distributions have often relied on the bioclimatic modeling, whereby empirical relationships between current species’ distributions and relevant climate variables are used to estimate species’ distributions under future climate scenarios. Several modelling types have been proposed, covering distinct aspects of the species-climate relationship. However, independent evaluations of models have often been unable to demonstrate preeminence of any single technique. Studies have shown that projections by alternative models can be highly variable. A solution to intermodel variations is to use several models combined (ensembles) and applying appropriate analysis to explore the resulting range of projections.
RECONCILE will make use of predictive distribution data available in CIBIO-Univ Évora for the majority of terrestrial vertebrate species and an important set of plant species (the latter restricted to Europe), from present-day to 2100, for distinct CC storylines (4th & 5th IPCC ARs) and several General Circulation Models, from 10-km to 1-degree resolution. RECONCILE will use an ensemble-modelling protocol already established in CIBIO-Univ Évora in order to inform on local model variability and therefore to integrate such predictive uncertainty within the SCP framework .
2) Land use models
Apart from climate, species persistence and movement patterns are highly dependent on habitat. In a world with intense human expansion, habitat change is particularly dependent on local to global policy decisions and environmental factors, like CC (directly influencing potential vegetation types). Land-use models merge these inducing factors and retrieve the likely occupancy of land use types across time. In order to assess species’ distributions and dispersal patterns CIBIO-Univ Évora has access to global data on annual land-use transitions, up to 2100, at 0.5-degree resolution, for four climate trajectories (IMAGE, AIM, MESSAGE, and MiniCAM), produced for the 5th IPCC AR [see, 28]. Data encompass proportions of grid cell area covered by five land systems (primary land, secondary land, cropland, pastures and urban sprawls).
3) Species dispersal kernel
Developing a dynamic SCP for long-term requires knowledge of species’ dispersal patterns to identify the areas that potentially may be reached while a species adapts to CC. Because dispersal biology is complex, studies involving many species use life-history traits or taxonomy to group species with similar dispersal patterns. For the great majority of studies, successful species dispersal probabilities are represented by negative exponential functions (see  for an illustration). RECONCILE will follow the same approach, producing general dispersal kernels for each taxonomic group and, if appropriate, particularities will be differentiated accordingly.
4) Socioeconomic indices
Conservation cost layers are important determinants of patterns of area prioritization in SCP  and, apart from the econometric value regarding conservation actions, they may also express distinct local scaled factors negatively impacting conservation efficacy (uncertainty, social disengagement, cooperation bottlenecks, etc). In RECONCILE, depending on the task, the cost layer will be used to express distinct aptitudes to conservation. For example Natura2000 extent (a surrogate for conservation actions already in place), anthrome classes and human footprint index (surrogates of habitat disturbance), agricultural, forestry, pasture and urban economic revenues (direct financial benefits), governmental indices (to inform on political commitments), econometric indices (associated with human development, societal engagement and conservation success, ), etc. Some of these datasets are already available online, while others need modelling support from the econometric side.