Bird Conservation in Europe

Elie Gaget, TCSMT Postdoctoral Researcher, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elie Gaget, TCSMT Postdoctoral Researcher, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Photo by M. Silveri

Climate warming is one of the biggest challenges of this century, leading to an unprecedented shift in the dominant conservation paradigm of protecting ecosystems. Conservation measures typically lack climate-related assessments, because they have been historically established to fight against anthropogenic pressures such as land-use change or over-exploitation but not directly climate change.

Species can cope with climate warming by shifting their distributions or persist in local micro-refuges, but these responses have been found insufficient so far to ensure long-term biodiversity conservation. Two key reasons are, first, the fast pace of climate warming and second, the additional cocktail of anthropogenic pressures. Conservations measures, by reducing such pressures, might be useful to improve species responses to climate warming. For instance, protected areas are disproportionally colonized by species extending their distribution to the poles. However, recent studies show that these encouraging effects are not consistent across protected areas and species, making it impossible to conceive effective climate warming adaptation strategies.

In my project, I investigate the effect of conservation measures on bird responses to climate warming. I look into the past to see which conservation measures already facilitated bird distribution shifts or persistence. Based on such conservation evidence, I explore how species responses to climate warming can be improved depending on conservation and climate scenarios in Europe. The European Union (EU) represent an interesting experimental area, with hundreds of bird species being impacted by temperature increase and having the largest protected area network, namely the Natura 2000 protected area network (18% of the EU’s land area). Climate oriented conservation strategies are relatively new in national and international conservation strategies. Considering the increasing threats of climate change on biodiversity, this project is aligns with the establishment of conservations policies based on the so-called “climate warming adaptation” to mitigate the negative impacts on climate change on biodiversity.

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