Expert opinion on extinction risk and climate change adaptation for biodiversity

Debra Javeline, Jessica J. Hellmann, Jason S. McLachlan, Dov F. Sax, Mark W. Schwartz, Rodrigo Castro Cornejo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite projections of biodiversity loss and proposed adaptations to climate change, few data exist on the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation strategies in minimizing biodiversity loss. Given the urgent need for action, scientific experts can fill critical information gaps by providing rapid and discerning risk assessment. A survey of 2,329 biodiversity experts projects, on average, that 9.5% of species will become extinct due to climate change within the next 100 years. This average projection is low relative to previously published values but substantial in absolute terms, because it amounts to a loss of hundreds of thousands of species over the next century. The average projection increases to 21% when experts are asked to estimate the percentage of species that will become extinct within the next 100 years due to climate change in combination with other causes. More than three-quarters of respondents reported being uncertain about their extinction estimates. A majority of experts preferred protected areas or corridors to reduce extinction risk but identified ex situ conservation and no intervention as the most feasible strategies. Experts also suggest that managed relocation of species, a particular adaptation strategy, is justifiable and effective in some situations but not others. Justifiable circumstances include the prevention of species extinction and overcoming human-made barriers to dispersal, and while experts are divided on the potential effectiveness of managed relocation for most taxonomic groups, higher percentages predict it effective for woody plants, terrestrial insects, and mammals. Most experts are open to the potential benefits of managed relocation but are concerned about unintended harmful consequences, particularly putting non-target species at risk of extinction. On balance, published biodiversity scientists feel that managed relocation, despite controversy about it, can be part of the conservation adaptation portfolio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number000057
JournalElementa
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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