In response to climate-driven declines in global biodiversity, many nations have increased the amount of land and water they designate protected, mostly based on where affected species live. But as the climate warms, species may move out of those designated areas to search out more suitable habitats. And the species-focused designation doesn’t take into account yet-to-be-discovered species. New research suggests when designating protected zones, governments should make decisions based on land qualities instead of current species’ locations.
In a recent article in Global Change Biology, researchers outlined a more strategic way to designate protected areas. Instead of focusing solely on species distributions, the authors recommend prioritizing three area types: climate refuge areas that have been slower to experience the effects of climate change, areas with diverse landscapes that are likely to accommodate a mix of species and areas that increase connectivity between protected zones. The team analyzed what percentage of countries have designated protected areas based on these criteria in the last decade.