The best places to protect species as the climate changes would be north and south-western Africa, northern Australia and the southern part of South America.
The worst places would be much of Europe, south and southeastern Asia, eastern parts of South America and southern Australia.
That rating comes from a new study by James Watson, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his colleagues, published this week in Nature Climate Change.
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“We need to realize that climate change is going to impact ecosystems both directly and indirectly in a variety of ways and we can’t keep on assuming that all adaptation actions are suitable everywhere,” said Watson in a press release. “The fact is there is only limited funds out there and we need to start to be clever in our investments in adaptation strategies around the world.”
The scientists have put together a handy world map to help the conservation community plan their efforts.
Others have done similar research before but these studies only looked at the direct impacts of climate change on ecosystems. The studies found central Africa, northern South America and northern Australia would be most climatically unstable in the future.
Watson included a new factor — how much humans have already altered the landscape — in his analysis.
For example, undisturbed vegetation in an area could help the ecosystem adapt to a changing climate. That would make the region valuable for conservation.
As Watson ran the analysis, he found that the least climate stable regions are present at high latitudes, such as North America and southern Patagonia.
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The most climate stable regions are present at low latitudes.
The most degraded landscapes are in western Europe, North America, southern South America, China, India, and south and southeast Asia.
Merging the two lists provides a map of the world that is the best and least suited for conservation.
Image: The map shows the regions best suited for conservation. Dark grey marks regions that are climatically stable and have their vegetation intact. Dark orange marks regions that are climatically stable but don’t have vegetation. Dark green marks regions that are not climatically stable and have high levels of intact vegetation. And pale cream marks regions with low climate stability and low levels of vegetation. Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society.
SEP 19, 2013 05:05 AM ET // BY GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN