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No place to hide: effects of climate change on protected areas

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This paper considers the potential impacts of climate change on protected areas (PAs) and actions that can be taken to mitigate them. Recent research suggests that the types of environmental changes predicted in climatic models are now taking place. Studies of many animals and plants that show significant alterations in range or behaviour find that the most consistent explanation for these is climate change. These impacts may necessitate a fundamental rethinking in the approach to protection. Protected areas are rooted in the concept of permanence: protection works best as a conservation tool if the area remains protected for the foreseeable future. But under climate change, species for which a particular protected area was established may no longer survive there. Some protected areas - for instance in coastal, arctic and mountain regions - may disappear altogether in their current form.The paper states that it may become necessary to physically move some protected areas, the practical consequences of which would be huge. It outlines specific impacts climate change may have and some protected areas that are likely to be affected. It also discusses the studies that have begun to look at ecological impacts of climate change in a number of PAs. These impacts include, increased aridity, sea level rise and coral bleaching.Despite evidence of climate change predictions already coming true, the authors state that few PA managers are addressing the issue, being concerned by more current and pressing issues. The authors suggest four steps that PAs can and should take:helping to prevent change through emissions reductionmanaging for change, through reducing additional impacts such as pollution (WWF has produced a manual ‘Buying Time: a user’s manual for building resistance and resilience to climate change in natural systems’ to help)planning, on a global policy scale, of changelearning about change through a series of controlled exercises in addressing and hopefully mitigating pressures when they arise.[Adapted from authors]