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Conserving nature's stage

June 11, 2015 — Every now and then, a big idea emerges in the world of conservation science with the potential to change how conservation gets done on the ground. The June issue of Conservation Biology takes up one such idea – the notion that in an era of climate change, trying to predict how thousands of species will react and then conserve their habitat may be impossible, and that instead  “Conserving Nature’s Stage,” or the enduring physical features likely to retain or attract species, may be more effective.

This new science, which focuses on “geodiversity,” underlies OSI’s own Resilient Landscape Initiative. “We are entering a new era of conservation, one where not all the old rules apply,” writes Mark Shaffer, National Climate Change Policy Advisor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in the issue’s forward.  “The way forward is unclear, and we need to be creative, flexible, and adaptive.”

Conserving Nature’s Stage could herald a paradigm shift in conservation. By explicitly incorporating landform, bedrock, soil and topography, the approach emphasizes the importance of geodiversity alongside the traditional role of biology in conservation planning. The special issue of Conservation Biology was the outgrowth of a three-day workshop organized by conservation scientists that included Paul Beir, Mac Hunter and Mark Anderson and that led to the development of the ten published papers. 

While reducing emissions is the overarching need of our time, determining what places can provide refuge for wildlife as the climate warms remains a critical and daunting challenge. To meet this challenge, OSI is translating new science based on geodiversity developed by The Nature Conservancy to help the land trust movement identify and protect habitat that will facilitate wildlife adaptation to climate change.

Through our Resilient Landscape Initiative, we are targeting capital for land transactions in selected areas of the Eastern US that protect exemplary examples of resilient lands, and helping land trusts and other organizations incorporate resilience science in their conservation plans. Our actions will not reverse climate change, but together we can limit its impacts and make conservation part of the solution.

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