Climate change is projected to cause accelerating impacts on species populations, ecosystems and the services they provide. These impacts are often likely to be negative to biodiversity. Thus traditional static nature conservation should be complemented with climate-wise conservation planning perspectives, so that the dynamic changes in species distributions and assemblages will be properly taken into account (Ref. 1). In particular, the ability of Protected Area (PA) network to support viable species populations and representative habitat types and ecosystems under global environmental changes requires urgent examination. In such assessments, it is imperative to consider also the impact of land use in the intervening landscape, as it may critically affect species movements to newly suitable areas and PAs.
PA network in Finland includes designated areas that are nationally or regionally important for the conservation of species and habitats. However, insufficient attention has been paid for investigating its performance under changing climate, and assessing which species and habitats will be most at risk and whether the PA network is able to alleviate the negative effects of climate change on populations (Ref. 2). The SUMI (‘Suojelualueverkosto muuttuvassa ilmastossa’) project (2017–2019) will provide the first in-depth assessment of the effectiveness and adaptive capacity of Finnish PA network in protecting biodiversity and supporting key ecosystem services under the growing pressures of climate change and land use. The project focuses on four work packages: the effects of climate change on species (WP1), habitat types and ecosystems (WP2), the role of biogeophysical characteristics of PAs in mitigating the impacts of climate change (WP3) and the role of PAs in carbon sequestration and storage (WP4).
In WP1, the vulnerability of species to climate and land use change will be examined based on three commonly used criteria, i.e. species exposure, adaptive capacity and sensitivity to climate change, with a particular focus on traits increasing the risk of local extinctions (e.g. limited dispersal ability, habitat specialization). In WP2, the vulnerability of habitat types to climate change is reviewed and consequent implications for conservation considered. Key habitats are boreal forests, peatlands and alpine biotopes. In examining the biogeophysical features of PAs the focus is on the potential of local climatic variability and refugia to support populations. Moreover, spatial differences in the fine-scale velocity of the climate change will be compared in different parts of the PA network to determine the most vulnerable PAs and areas. Finally, in WP4, the first national estimates of the size of carbon sink in Finnish forested PAs will be produced.
1. Thomas, C. D. & Gillingham, P. K. 2015. – Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 115:718-730.
2. Virkkala, R. et al. 2014. – Ecology and Evolution 4:2991-3003.