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Incorporating climate change into recovery planning for threatened vertebrate species in southwestern Australia

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Abstract

Recovery plans are the main tool used for restoration of threatened species in Australia, and identification of key threatening processes is an important feature of them. The aim of this study was to identify how climate change can be incorporated into the recovery planning process using a case study of threatened vertebrates in a global biodiversity hotspot, southwestern Australia. Analysis of 79 recovery planning documents for threatened vertebrate species in the region found that prior to the year 2004, climate change was not included as a threatening process. Post 2004, 32 of 54 (59.3%) documents included climate change as a threatening process. Using bioclimatic modelling, 43 of these species were ranked in terms of their potential exposure to climate change, and a gradient of management intervention aimed at mitigating their exposure to climate change was proposed. This intervention gradient ranged from active management actions aimed at species potentially at risk of extinction due to climate change, through to preservation of habitat in species predicted to lose between 0 and 25% of their current population size. It was proposed that as a priority, the recovery documentation of the 20 species predicted to be most at risk and thus needing a high level of management intervention should identify climate change as a key threatening process, and that more comprehensive analyses of climate change vulnerability be undertaken for these species. Such an approach aimed at prioritising climate change mitigation in threatened species would be useful for other regions where it has been predicted that climate change could have a negative impact on biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

This research was carried out as part of the Project ‘Facilitating NRM planning for climate change—baseline climate change knowledge for the Southern and Southwestern Flatlands’, funded by the Australian Government through the Natural Resource Management Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Grants Program.

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Correspondence to Barbara A. Stewart.

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Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

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Stewart, B.A., Ford, B.M., Van Helden, B.E. et al. Incorporating climate change into recovery planning for threatened vertebrate species in southwestern Australia. Biodivers Conserv 27, 147–165 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-017-1426-5

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