Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences

Abstract

Biodiversity represents the life support system on which society depends, but is increasingly threatened by human activities. As a result, there is an urgent need for tested methods to help biodiversity to adapt to emerging threats such as climate change. One possible first step is to protect existing populations of threatened species by making use of the microclimates that are created by different features of the landscape, and that can buffer the effects of climate change. Conservation organisations already carry out activities that influence microclimate, for example by grazing livestock to create hot conditions for plants or invertebrates in short or broken vegetation. Such approaches are based on experience of management actions that have been successful for threatened species until now, but relatively little explicit information is available to guide these management activities under future climate change. We aim to provide practical guidance to help decide what activities should be carried out, where, and for which species, to increase the resilience of biodiversity to climate change

We will use techniques developed during recent NERC-funded research, to predict variation in temperature and moisture conditions at a fine resolution throughout the landscape of South West England. We will provide our project partners, the environmental organisations that are charged with conserving biodiversity in the region, with information on how this microclimate variation influences priority species for conservation. We will work closely with these organisations to ensure that the format and content of the resources we develop are practically useful. To achieve this goal, we will liaise closely with the organisations about their conservation priorities in the region, develop a set of microclimate databases to access via Geographic Information Systems, and provide guidance and support to the partners on the application of this resource to conservation planning and management.

We will apply the microclimate resources we develop to locations in South-West England in which our partners are guiding conservation management using innovative landscape-scale approaches, which require coordinated management across a range of habitats and land-uses. These landscape-scale projects will provide an opportunity to apply the microclimate information to existing questions of where and how to focus management activities to help protect species against potentially negative effects of climate change. Based on our experience of applying these techniques to conservation management in the landscape-scale projects, we will work with our partners to produce a broader guidance document to assist with planning, prioritisation and management to adapt UK biodiversity conservation to climate change. Our direct beneficiaries are bodies whose primary goal is nature conservation, but we will develop tools and guidance in a format that enables their wider future application by organisations involved with environmental policy, planning and management in the UK.

Publications


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Greenwood O (2016) Using in situ management to conserve biodiversity under climate change. in The Journal of applied ecology
Maclean I (2015) Microclimates buffer the responses of plant communities to climate change in Global Ecology and Biogeography
Suggitt A (2014) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera in Journal of Insect Conservation
Suggitt AJ (2014) Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation in British Wildlife
 
Description The effects of climate change on wild species and habitats are expected to be modified by local effects of topography on the microclimatic conditions experienced. As a result, it is expected that microclimate could be used by conservation managers to adapt their activities to climate change, by focusing conservation actions on locations where the existing microclimatic conditions lead to the best chances of successful outcomes. To help inform this adaptation process we have produced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) surfaces at a fine resolution (100 m and 5 m) for South-West England, of features of the microclimate that are relevant for wildlife. We have discussed in a series of meetings and in a workshop with conservation practitioners and policymakers, how these microclimatic features influence species and habitats, and how they can best be incorporated in conservation management. Our beneficiaries have been provided with digital copies of the information, and we have discussed with them how it can be accessed and used. We are currently working with our project partners to develop guidelines for policy and practice on how to use information on microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change.
Exploitation Route We are working with our partners to make the information we have produced on microclimate easier to access and employ in planning conservation management. We anticipate that GIS surfaces providing information on thermal microclimates will be incorporated in the set of digital information used by GIS specialists in environmental organisations, and we have already discussed using our information in this format for the RSPB, and in conjunction with another NERC KE project from the University of Liverpool which is using information on the connectedness of habitats to help plan habitat management to allow species to spread their distributions as the climate changes.
Sectors Environment
 
Description Geographic information systems (GIS) surfaces summarising the effects of topography on thermal and hydrological conditions have been made available to partner organisations involved in conservation and environmental management (e.g. Natural England, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts). These have been incorporated into the GIS layers used to inform decision making by the RSPB and Natural England, with the result that our information is used to prioritise locations for measures such as the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) and for species conservation programmes.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation Butterfly Conservation
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation Environmental Assessment and Design (EAD)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Organisation The Wildlife Trusts
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided information on the effects of topography on microclimate, and how this can influence ecological responses to climate change.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have informed us of the factors influencing decision-making regarding conservation and environmental management, and opportunities or challenges for incorporating microclimate information in the process of selecting sites for conservation or management interventions to be used.
Impact Co-authorship of dissemination article by Suggitt et al (2014) "Microclimate, climate change and wildlife conservation" (British Wildlife) by N. Macgregor from Natural England Co-authorship of publication by Suggitt et al (2015) Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera. (Journal of Insect Conservation) by N. Macgregor and M. Morecroft from Natural England, and R. Fox from Butterfly Conservation UK.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on using microclimate to adapt conservation to climate change 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participants in the event have provided us with relevant new contacts in Nature Improvement Areas and Environmental Records Centres in South-West England. Our geographic information on microclimate has contributed to the development of a software tool to guide habitat management to facilitate range shifts under climate change, which is being developed by a separate NERC Knowledge Exchange project at the University of Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014