Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1651-1671

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Incorporating climate change into systematic conservation planning

  • Craig R. GrovesAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science Group Email author 
  • , Edward T. GameAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science Group
  • , Mark G. AndersonAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Eastern North America Division
  • , Molly CrossAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Society, North America Program
  • , Carolyn EnquistAffiliated withNational Phenology Network and The Wildlife Society
  • , Zach FerdañaAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Global Marine Team
  • , Evan GirvetzAffiliated withUniversity of Washington and The Nature Conservancy, Global Climate Team
  • , Anne GondorAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Gulf of California and Pacific Program
  • , Kimberly R. HallAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Great Lakes Program
    • , Jonathan HigginsAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Global Freshwater Team
    • , Rob MarshallAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Arizona Program
    • , Ken PopperAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Oregon Program
    • , Steve SchillAffiliated withThe Nature Conservancy, Caribbean Program
    • , Sarah L. ShaferAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey


The principles of systematic conservation planning are now widely used by governments and non-government organizations alike to develop biodiversity conservation plans for countries, states, regions, and ecoregions. Many of the species and ecosystems these plans were designed to conserve are now being affected by climate change, and there is a critical need to incorporate new and complementary approaches into these plans that will aid species and ecosystems in adjusting to potential climate change impacts. We propose five approaches to climate change adaptation that can be integrated into existing or new biodiversity conservation plans: (1) conserving the geophysical stage, (2) protecting climatic refugia, (3) enhancing regional connectivity, (4) sustaining ecosystem process and function, and (5) capitalizing on opportunities emerging in response to climate change. We discuss both key assumptions behind each approach and the trade-offs involved in using the approach for conservation planning. We also summarize additional data beyond those typically used in systematic conservation plans required to implement these approaches. A major strength of these approaches is that they are largely robust to the uncertainty in how climate impacts may manifest in any given region.


Climate refugia Geophysical stage Connectivity Ecosystem function and process Climate change adaptation