Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 836–845 | Cite as

Assessing the Impacts of Future Climate Change on Protected Area Networks: A Method to Simulate Individual Species' Responses

  • Stephen G. WillisEmail author
  • Dave G. Hole
  • Yvonne C. Collingham
  • Geoff Hilton
  • Carsten Rahbek
  • Brian Huntley


Global climate change, along with continued habitat loss and fragmentation, is now recognized as being a major threat to future biodiversity. There is a very real threat to species, arising from the need to shift their ranges in the future to track regions of suitable climate. The Important Bird Area (IBA) network is a series of sites designed to conserve avian diversity in the face of current threats from factors such as habitat loss and fragmentation. However, in common with other networks, the IBA network is based on the assumption that the climate will remain unchanged in the future. In this article, we provide a method to simulate the occurrence of species of conservation concern in protected areas, which could be used as a first-step approach to assess the potential impacts of climate change upon such species in protected areas. We use species-climate response surface models to relate the occurrence of 12 biome-restricted African species to climate data at a coarse (quarter degree-degree latitude-longitude) resolution and then intersect the grid model output with IBA outlines to simulate the occurrence of the species in South African IBAs. Our results demonstrate that this relatively simple technique provides good simulations of current species' occurrence in protected areas. We then use basic habitat data for IBAs along with habitat preference data for the species to reduce over-prediction and further improve predictive ability. This approach can be used with future climate change scenarios to highlight vulnerable species in IBAs in the future and allow practical recommendations to be made to enhance the IBA network and minimize the predicted impacts of climate change.


Biodiversity Climate change Climate envelope modeling Protected area network 



We are indebted to numerous people for the provision of data used in this project. BirdLife International personnel have been invaluable in providing data and advice throughout the project. The African BirdLife partners have provided much of the IBA data and maps needed to produce the IBAs GIS; we are especially grateful to Achilles Byaruhanga, Steven Evans, Alfred Owino, Ade Majekodunmi, Tim Dodman, Kenna Kelly, Pete Leonard, Neil Burgess, and Simon Blyth. Paul Britten, Ian Tarplee, and Hannah Williams of RSPB deserve many thanks for digitizing IBA maps. Fine scale distribution data was kindly made available for Uganda, Kenya, and Southern Africa by, respectively, Makerere University (Institute of Environmental & Natural Resources), National Museum of Kenya, and the Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town ( This work was supported by RSPB funding. Debbie Pain and Lincoln Fishpool provided useful comments on an early draft of this article. The article was much improved by the comments of the anonymous referees and the guest editor, Ole Mertz.


  1. Allouche O, Tsoar A, Kadmon R (2006) Assessing the accuracy of species distribution models: prevalence, kappa and the true skill statistic (TSS). Journal of Applied Ecology 43:1223–1232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balmford A, Moore JL, Brooks T, Burgess N, Hansen LA, Williams P, Rahbek C (2001) Conservation conflicts across Africa. Science 291:2616–2619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. BirdLife-International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Lynx Edicions & BirdLife, Barcelona, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. BirdLife International (2004) State of the World’s birds 2004: indicators for our changing world. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  5. Boko M, Niang I, Nyong A, Vogel C, Githeko A, Medany M, Osman-Elasha B, Tabo R, Yanda P (2007) Africa. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 433–467Google Scholar
  6. Brooks TM, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, da Fonseca GAB, Rylands AB, Konstant WR, Flick P, Pilgrim J, Oldfield S, Magin G, Hilton-Taylor C (2002) Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conservation Biology 16:909–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown LH, Urban EK, Newman K (1982) The birds of Africa: volume I. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Carswell M, Pomeroy D, Reynolds J, Tushabe H (2005) The bird atlas of Uganda. BOU, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Koli RK, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Rueda VM, Mearns L, Menéndez CG, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 847–940Google Scholar
  10. De Klerk HM, Crowe TM, Fjeldsa J, Burgess ND (2002) Biogeographical patterns of endemic terrestrial Afrotropical birds. Diversity and Distributions 8:147–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Klerk HM, Fjeldsa J, Blyth S, Burgess ND (2004) Gaps in the protected area network for threatened Afrotropical birds. Biological Conservation 117:529–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Desanker P, Magadza C, Allali A, Basalirwa C, Boko M, Dieudonne G, Downing TE, Dube PO, Githeko A, Githendu M, Gonzalez P, Gwary D, Jallow B, Nwafor J, Scholes R (2001) Africa. In: White KS (ed) Climate change 2001: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 487–531Google Scholar
  13. Fishpool LDC, Evans MI (2001) Important bird areas in Africa and associated islands: priority sites for conservation. Birdlife International/Lynx Edicions, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  14. Graham RW, Grimm E (1990) Effects of global climate change on the patterns of terrestrial biological communities. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5:289–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. H-Acevedo D, Currie DJ (2003) Does climate determine broad-scale patterns of species richness? A test of the causal link by natural experiment. Global Ecology and Biogeography 12:461–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harrison JA, Allan DG, Underhill LG, Herremans M, Tree AJ, Parker V, Brown CJ (1997) The atlas of southern African birds. vols 1, 2. BirdLife South Africa, JohannesburgGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill JK, Thomas CD, Fox R, Telfer MG, Willis SG, Asher J, Huntley B (2002) Responses of butterflies to 20th century climate warming: implications for future ranges. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 269:2163–2171Google Scholar
  18. Huntley B, Berry PM, Cramer W, McDonald AP (1995) Modelling present and potential future ranges of some European higher plants using climate response surfaces. Journal of Biogeography 22:967–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huntley B, Cramer W, Morgan AV, Prentice HC, Allen JRM (eds) (1997) Past and future rapid environmental changes: the spatial and evolutionary responses of terrestrial biota. NATO ASI Series I: global environmental change. Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  20. Huntley B, Green RE, Collingham YC, Hill JK, Willis SG, Bartlein PJ, Cramer W, Hagemeijer WJM, Thomas CJ (2004) The performance of models relating species geographical distributions to climate is independent of trophic level. Ecology Letters 7:417–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huntley B, Collingham YC, Green RE, Hilton GM, Rahbek C, Willis SG (2006) Potential impacts of climatic change upon geographical distributions of birds. Ibis 148:8–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huntley B, Collingham YC, Green RE, Willis SG (2007) A climatic atlas of European breeding birds. Lynx Edicions, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  23. Huntley B, Collingham YC, Willis SG, Green RE (2008) Potential impacts of climatic change on European breeding birds. PLoS ONE 3:e1439. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001439
  24. Jetz W, Wilcove DS, Dobson AP (2007) Projected impacts of climate and land-use change on global diversity of birds. PLoS Biology 5(e157):1–9Google Scholar
  25. Lewis A, Pomeroy D (1989) A bird atlas of Kenya. Balkema, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  26. Manel S, Williams HC, Ormerod SJ (2001) Evaluating presence-absence models in ecology: the need to account for prevalence. Journal of Applied Ecology 38:921–931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meehl GA, Stocker TF, Collins WD, Friedlingstein P, Gaye AT, Gregory JM, Kitoh A, Knutti R, Murphy JM, Noda A, Raper SCB, Watterson IG, Weaver AJ, Zhao Z-C (2007) Global climate projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Menendez R, Gonzalez-Megias A, Hill JK, Braschler B, Willis SG, Collingham YC, Fox R, Roy DB, Thomas CD (2006) Species richness changes lag behind climate. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 273:1465–1470Google Scholar
  29. Muriuki JN, DeKlerk HM, Williams PH, Bennun LA, Crowe TM, VandenBerge E (1997) Using patterns of distribution and diversity of Kenyan birds to select and prioritize areas for conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 6:191–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Myers N, Mittermeiner RA, Mittermeiner CG, da Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421:37–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parmesan C, Ryrholm N, Stefanescu C, Hill JK, Thomas CD, Descimon H, Huntley B, Kaila L, Kullberg J, Tammaru T, Tennent WJ, Thomas JA, Warren M (1999) Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399:579–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pimm SL, Russell GJ, Gittleman JL, Brooks TM (1995) The future of biodiversity. Science 269:347–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pounds JA, Fogden MPL, Campbell JH (1999) Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature 398:611–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Root TL, Price JT, Hall KR, Schneider SH, Rosenzweig C, Pounds JA (2003) Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421:57–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thomas CD, Cameron A, Green RE, Bakkenes M, Beaumont LJ, Collingham YC, Erasmus BFN, de Siqueira MF, Grainger A, Hannah L, Hughes L, Huntley B, van Jaarsveld AS, Midgley GF, Miles L, Ortega-Huerta MA, Peterson AT, Phillips OL, Williams SE (2004a) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427:145–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thomas JA, Telfer MG, Roy DB, Preston CD, Greenwood JJD, Asher J, Fox R, Clarke RT, Lawton JH (2004b) Comparative losses of British butterflies, birds and plants and the global extinction crisis. Science 303: 1879–1881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thuiller W, Broennimann O, Hughes G, Alkemade JM, Midgley GF, Corsi F (2006) Vulnerability of African mammals to anthropogenic climate change under conservative land transformation assumptions. Global Change Biology 12:424–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walther GR, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC, Fromentin JM, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Bairlein F (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416:389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Warren MS, Hill JK, Thomas JA, Asher J, Fox R, Huntley B, Roy DB, Telfer MG, Jeffcoate S, Harding P, Jeffcoate G, Willis SG, Greatorex-Davies JN, Moss D, Thomas CD (2001) Rapid responses of British butterflies to opposing forces of climate and habitat change. Nature 414:65–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Williams JW, Jackson ST, Kutzbach JE (2007) Projected distribution of novel and disappearing climates by 2100AD. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 104:5738–5742Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen G. Willis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dave G. Hole
    • 1
  • Yvonne C. Collingham
    • 1
  • Geoff Hilton
    • 2
  • Carsten Rahbek
    • 3
  • Brian Huntley
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Ecosystem Science, School of Biological and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK
  2. 2.Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The LodgeSandyUK
  3. 3.Institute of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations