SYMP 9-6
­Conservation planning for resilience to climate change: Putting paleobiology into practice

Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 4:10 PM
Auditorium, Rm 3, Minneapolis Convention Center
Joseph E. Fargione, The Nature Conservancy, Minneapolis, MN
Jenny L. McGuire, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Brad H. McRae, North America Region, The Nature Conservancy, Fort Collins, CO

In the coming century, unprecedented rates of climate change and increasing habitat loss and fragmentation will pose considerable challenges for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function. Conservation practitioners recognize that current protected areas will often fail to allow the evolution and movement necessary for many species to avoid climate-change-induced extinction, yet lack robust tools to design climate-resilient conservation networks. Conservation planners and managers grappling with these problems can learn much from the rapidly growing synthetic field of conservation paleobiology. Research from paleontology, phylogeography, paleoclimatology, ancient DNA studies, and related fields is providing rich and independent datasets that will enhance our ability to answer pressing conservation questions. Data from near and deep time are being employed in efforts as diverse as predicting extinction risk, understanding the dynamics of species invasions, and identifying which species substitutions can maintain ecosystem function and ecosystem services in changing environments. Despite such promise, many conservation practitioners remain unaware of the potential to incorporate paleobiological data into their work.


We review developments in the field that can support planning for climate change, and highlight remaining hurdles to putting conservation paleobiology into practice for conservation planners and managers. We focus specifically on how paleobiology can be used to test conservation plans designed to promote resilience to climate change. For example, what characteristics of past climate refugia can aid the identification of future climate refugia? We conclude with a brief discussion of research needs and the more immediate challenge of making paleobiological tools more accessible practitioners. The latter will require enhanced communication about available resources like paleontological databases and development of simple conservation-relevant guidance based on emerging paleoecological findings.