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Planning for biodiversity in future climates—response

Venter, O., Laurance, W.F., Iwamura, T., Wilson, K.A., Fuller, R.A. & Possingham, H.P. 2010. Planning for biodiversity in future climates—response. Science, 327, 1453. [Refereed correspondence]

Shoo questions whether areas we identify as global priorities for reducing expected carbon emissions and species extinctions—such as Madagascar, Indonesia, and the Philippines—will still sustain high levels of biodiversity after a century of climate change.

We believe that present centers of tropical endemism and diversity are, broadly speaking, likely to remain important in the future. Such centers tend to occur in regions that have remained climatically stable over long periods, such as hyper-wet, cloudy areas in the Andes that have withstood Pleistocene climatic fluctuations. Moreover, temperature is predicted to shift at a global average velocity of 0.42 km per year, or 42 km this century, whereas our scheme focuses on developing countries that average more than 700,000 km2 in area. Hence, the large scale of our analysis relative to the pace of climate change makes it doubtful that priorities will shift much this century.

Although we agree that climate-induced shifts in species’ ranges could theoretically be incorporated into our work and conservation planning more broadly, such efforts are plagued by a dearth of data, methodological shortcomings, and uncertainty. The choice of modeling approach, in particular, can strongly affect one’s results. For instance, nine different bioclimatic models yielded wildly varying predictions of future range size for a South American plant species, ranging from a loss of 92% to a gain of 322%. Hence, we stand by our priority areas for using REDD to protect both forest carbon stocks and biodiversity. Shoo raises an interesting point, but not one that is likely to be of practical relevance now, when forests are under siege and conservation planners must make immediate decisions.

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