Greg Aplet -- Managing for resilience through a "portfolio approach" to reducing climate risk
Climate change promises to erode ecosystems and undermine more than a century of conservation gains. Protected area managers can no longer expect protection or restoration alone to sustain ecological integrity and instead must identify strategies to increase the resilience of ecosystem elements as ecosystems change. To “buy time” for diverse, future ecosystems to develop, conservation priorities should focus on maintaining those elements that take a long time to develop, including soils and the genetic diversity in populations. Unfortunately, uncertainty about the future of ecosystems under climate change dictates that it is unknowable which strategy will work “best,” and a “portfolio” of approaches must be tried to spread the risk of loss. We argue that protected area adaptation is best served by allocating wildlands to three zones: 1) a Restoration Zone where whole ecosystems are actively maintained and change is resisted, 2) an Observation Zone where directional change is accepted, and 3) an Innovation Zone where change is guided into conditions unlike the past but with a better chance of sustaining highly valued ecosystem elements and processes in the long term. Such a spatially explicit approach can provide a framework for evaluating the appropriateness of various “adaptation options” and facilitate adaptive management to minimize climate risk. The presentation will close with consideration of criteria to guide allocation of the landscape to the portfolio.