When to move species in the face of climate change

System model for managed relocation

Managed relocation is a controversial climate-adaptation strategy to combat negative climate change impacts on biodiversity. While the scientific community debates the merits of managed relocation, species are already being moved to new areas predicted to be more suitable under climate change. To inform these moves, we construct a quantitative decision framework to evaluate the timing of relocation in the face of climate change. We find that the optimal timing depends on many factors, including the size of the population, the demographic costs of translocation and the expected carrying capacities over time in the source and destination habitats. In some settings, such as when a small population would benefit from time to grow before risking translocation losses, haste is ill advised. We also find that active adaptive management is valuable when the effect of climate change on source habitat is uncertain, and leads to delayed movement.

McDonald-Madden, E., Runge, M.C., Possingham, H.P., Martin T.G. 2011. Optimal timing for managed relocation of species faced with climate change. Nature Climate Change 1:261-265. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1170

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