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New Research Highlights Importance of Expanding Protected Areas

Santa Marta Parakeet
Streak-capped Spinetail El Dorado
Santa Marta parakeet

Summary: An important article published this month by SUNY University researchers and Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman, determines the effects of climate change on threatened and range-restricted birds in Colombia. The results project that climate change will severely impact the most sensitive species and that it is critical that existing protected areas be expanded, while new reserves be established in the most under-represented ecosystems, primarily where Rainforest Trust is already supporting conservation action.

Excerpt: Climate change is expected to cause shifts in species distributions worldwide, threatening their viability due to range reductions and altering their representation in protected areas. Biodiversity hotspots might be particularly vulnerable to climate change because they hold large numbers of species with small ranges which could contract even further as species track their optimal habitat.

In July 2012, Stony Brook University researchers with Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman published an article titled "Effects of climate change on species distribution, community structure, and conservation of birds in protected areas in Colombia " in the journal Regional Environmental Change. Copies are available on email request.

The extent to which climate change could cause distribution shifts in threatened and range-restricted birds in Colombia was analyzed. Results highlighted that threatened and range-restricted birds in Colombia are projected to lose on average between 33 and 43% of their total range under future climate. Many of the species that face the greatest risks are endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, including the spectacular Santa Marta Parakeet Pyrrhura viridicata. An important population stronghold for many of the Santa Marta endemics at greatest risk is in the El Dorado Bird Reserve, which Rainforest Trust recent raised funds to significantly expand to 2,500 acres. However, additional efforts are needed to further expand this reserve to sustain populations in the face of potential climate change.

The principal conservation recommendation in the article is to expand existing reserves and establish new reserves in the most under-represented regions, particularly the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Chocó. Overall, the article lays an important foundation for scaling up conservation efforts in the race to combat the effects of climate change on Colombian birds.

Reference: Velásquez-Tibatá, J., Salaman, P., y Graham, C. (2012) Effects of climate change on species distribution, community structure, and conservation of birds in protected areas in Colombia. Regional Environmental Change. 12: 329-342.