Portfolio Conservation of Metapopulations Under Climate Change

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Anderson, S.C., J.W. Moore, M.M. McClure, N.K. Dulvy, A.B. Cooper. 2015. Portfolio conservation of metapopulations under climate change. Ecological Applications. 25(2): 559–572. DOI: 10.1890/14-0266.1

Date created: 

Climate change is likely to lead to increasing population variability and extinction risk. Theoretically, greater population diversity should buffer against rising climate variability, and this theory is often invoked as a reason for greater conservation. However, this has rarely been quantified. Here we show how a portfolio approach to managing population diversity can inform metapopulation conservation priorities in a changing world. We develop a salmon metapopulation model in which productivity is driven by spatially distributed thermal tolerance and patterns of short‐ and long‐term climate change. We then implement spatial conservation scenarios that control population carrying capacities and evaluate the metapopulation portfolios as a financial manager might: along axes of conservation risk and return. We show that preserving a diversity of thermal tolerances minimizes risk, given environmental stochasticity, and ensures persistence, given long‐term environmental change. When the thermal tolerances of populations are unknown, doubling the number of populations conserved may nearly halve expected metapopulation variability. However, this reduction in variability can come at the expense of long‐term persistence if climate change increasingly restricts available habitat, forcing ecological managers to balance society's desire for short‐term stability and long‐term viability. Our findings suggest the importance of conserving the processes that promote thermal‐tolerance diversity, such as genetic diversity, habitat heterogeneity, and natural disturbance regimes, and demonstrate that diverse natural portfolios may be critical for metapopulation conservation in the face of increasing climate variability and change.

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