Using in situ management to conserve biodiversity under climate change

Owen Greenwood, Hannah L. Mossman, Andrew J. Suggitt, Robin J. Curtis, Ilya M.D. Maclean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Successful conservation will increasingly depend on our ability to help species cope with climate change. While there has been much attention on accommodating or assisting range shifts, less has been given to the alternative strategy of helping species survive climate change through in situ management. Here we provide a synthesis of published evidence examining whether habitat management can be used to offset the adverse impacts on biodiversity of changes in temperature, water availability and sea-level rise. Our focus is on practical methods whereby the local environmental conditions experienced by organisms can be made more suitable. Many studies suggest that manipulating vegetation structure can alter the temperature and moisture conditions experienced by organisms, and several demonstrate that these altered conditions benefit species as regional climatic conditions become unsuitable. The effects of topography on local climatic conditions are even better understood, but the alteration of topography as a climate adaptation tool is not ingrained in conservation practice. Trials of topographic alteration in the field should therefore be a priority for future research. Coastal systems have the natural capacity to keep pace with climate change, but require sufficient sediment supplies and space for landward migration to do so. There is an extensive literature on managed realignment. While the underlying rationale is simple, successful implementation requires careful consideration of elevation and past land use. Even with careful management, restored habitats may not attain the physical and biological attributes of natural habitats. Synthesis and applications. The recent literature provides a compelling case that some of the adverse effects of climate change can be offset by appropriate management. However, much of the evidence for this is indirect and too few studies provide empirical tests of the long-term effectiveness of these management interventions. It is clear from the existing evidence that some techniques have a higher risk of failure or unexpected outcomes than others and managers will need to make careful choices about which to implement. We have assessed the strength of evidence of these approaches in order to demonstrate to conservation professionals the risks involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-894
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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