Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice: February 2019 blog entry

2nd April 2019

The following blog is written by James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science, BTO (project lead for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘Putting climate change adaptation into conservation practice’).

Identifying relevant studies

We have agreed a framework to identify relevant studies (see image, above). Studies have to include information about climate change impacts, either by documenting changes that are consistent with known climate change responses, such as range change, or to document impacts of changing climatic variables upon population-level responses. They also have to then either test the impacts of a climate change adaptation intervention upon those responses, or to test correlations with variables that reflect the potential impacts of an intervention upon that population. 

Thus, of the potential types of studies that outline interventions described above, the middle and bottom studies, which present additive or interactive impacts of climate change on populations respectively, are potentially in scope. An example of the former is Frederiksen et al. 2004 which documents negative impacts of sea-surface temperature upon kittiwake reproductive success, survival and population growth, with an additional negative impact of the existence of a sandeel fishery on the population. Thus, closing the fishery enables the population to cope with additional warming. An example of the latter is a newly published study on black grouse in Wales which documents a negative impact of June rainfall upon breeding success that is eliminated by active management. The Welsh black grouse recovery programme has switched the system from being negatively impacted by rainfall to being positively impacted by habitat management and predator control. 

At the moment, we expect data to be available from about 100 studies to inform meta-analysis around the effectiveness of different interventions. 

Collaborative working

The expertise of the project group members, and their range of perspectives and experiences, have been extremely helpful in refining our approach. We have also set-up an external Project Advisory Group comprising members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Climate Change Specialist Group as well as climate change leads from Natural England and RSPB. Their input has provided a very useful steer and advice, particularly to help identify potentially important literature, and to consider the outputs and potential impact of the work.  We have usefully discussed different ways of classifying climate change adaptation actions, particularly considering a newly published framework, but in the end agreeing to use the existing IUCN classification of Conservation Actions as a basis for this. 

There have been two project meetings during the period May – October 2018 – one of the project group which was attended by all members of the project team, and a second of the external advisory group that was attended by four of the project team and two of the external advisory group, who provided excellent and useful input. These meetings, and subsequent email correspondence, have collectively refined the approach and finalised the methods for the identification literature and summarising data, which is now making good progress. 

For more information on the CCI Collaborative Fund project, please visit the project page.