Protected areas (PAs) have been established to protect species and ecosystems from threatening processes and will play an important role in nature conservation under climate change. However, there are concerns that climate change could alter the relationships between (dynamic) species range limits and (fixed) PA boundaries.
This report considers the current designation and monitoring framework for SSSIs and ask ‘how can we sustain biodiversity in PAs under climate change?’. We challenge some of the existing paradigms regarding range shifts, demonstrating that range retractions are far less frequently documented than range expansions, and that most shifts are likely to be quite localised in response to local climate change.
To determine the best means of maintaining viability of regional species populations, we propose that England’s PA network should be subjected to principles of systematic conservation planning. We explore how the monitoring of SSSIs could be improved to create a more functional network of protected sites that protects biodiversity under climate change. We propose that the monitoring of SSSIs would benefit from a shift in focus away from site-based condition. Instead, the focus of monitoring effort should be on the effectiveness of all sites in sustaining viable regional populations.
We conclude that the classic principles of conservation and PA design mostly hold true under climate change, but these approaches need to be implemented more effectively than at present. We provide practical discussions on how England’s PA network should be modified, monitored, and managed to achieve this.