Global hotspots for assisted colonisation: where will assisted colonisation be most beneficial in conserving the world’s birds under climate change?

Alke Voskamp (1), David J. Baker (2), Philip A. Stephens (3), Stuart Butchart (4), Stephen G. Willis (5)

1 Durham University, Durham DH13LE, UK,  alke.voskamp@durham.ac.uk, @AlkeVoskamp

2 Durham University, Durham DH13LE, UK,  d.j.baker@durham.ac.uk

3 Durham University, Durham DH13LE, UK,  philip.stephens@durham.ac.uk

4 BirdLife International, Cambridge CB3 0NA, UK,  Stuart.Butchart@birdlife.org

5 Durham University, Durham DH13LE, UK,  s.g.willis@durham.ac.uk, @SWillis_Durham

The  principal  responses  of  species  to  climate  change  are  likely  to  be  spatial  changes  in  range  and abundance. Thus, a species’ ability to adapt to climate change will depend on its ability to track suitable climate; consequently, recent responses to climate change have varied among taxonomic groups. Adaptive conservation management to mitigate climate impacts on biodiversity often advocates facilitating natural range alterations. However, for species with constrained mobility, assisted colonisation (the artificial translocation of species to suitable areas they are unlikely to reach unaided) has been proposed as a potential conservation tool. Here we use species distribution models (SDMs) to identify climatically suitable areas for species, both now and in future. We use these models, along with species’ habitat and trait data, to simulate the likelihood that bird species can disperse and track suitable climate and habitat throughout the century. We produce these dispersal-linked SDMs for the majority of the world’s landbirds. The comparison between a species’ current range extent, and the extent of future suitable habitat and climate that lie within its colonisation potential, helps us to identify those species most at threat from climate change. If such threatened species have suitable habitat and climate beyond their dispersal capability, they could be candidates for assisted colonisation. Using this approach, we summarise, for the first time, species and regions that might be appropriate for assisted colonisation management. From this, we highlight areas of the world, and groups of species, for which assisted colonisation should be considered an important conservation tool.

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