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Lattice-work corridors for climate change: a conceptual framework for biodiversity conservation and social-ecological resilience in a tropical elevational gradient

Patricia A Townsend, University of Washington
Karen L Masters, Council on International Educational Exchange


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Rapid climate change poses complex challenges for conservation, especially in tropical developing countries where biodiversity is high while financial and technical resources are limited. The complexity is heightened by uncertainty in predicted effects, both for ecological systems and human communities that depend heavily on natural resource extraction and use. Effective conservation plans and measures must be inexpensive, fast-acting, and able to increase the resilience of both the ecosystem and the social-ecological system. We present conservation practitioners with a framework that strategically integrates climate change planning into connectivity measures for tropical mountain ecosystems in Costa Rica. We propose a strategy for doubling the amount of habitat currently protected in riparian corridors using measures that are relatively low cost and fast-acting, and will employ and expand human capital. We argue that habitat connectivity must be enhanced along latitudinal gradients, but also within the same elevational bands, via a lattice-work corridor system. This is needed to facilitate range shifts for mobile species and evolutionary adaptation for less mobile species. We think that conservation measures within the elevational bands must include conservation-friendly land uses that improve current and future human livelihoods under dynamic conditions. Key components include community involvement, habitat priority-setting, forest landscape restoration, and environmental services payments. Our approach is fundamentally adaptive in that the conservation measures employed are informed by on-the-ground successes and failures and modified accordingly, but are relatively low risk and fast-acting. Our proposal, if implemented, would satisfy tenets of climate-smart conservation, improve the resilience of human and ecological communities, and be a model for other locations facing similar challenges.

Key words

buffer capacity; climate adaptation; community involvement; conservation incentives; Costa Rica; environmental services payments; forest landscape restoration; habitat priority-setting; landscape connectivity; reforestation; resilient ecosystems; resilient livelihoods; riparian zones; tropical mountain ecosystems

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087