Linking climate change vulnerability research and evidence on conservation action effectiveness to safeguard European seabird populations
An increasing number of species are facing unprecedented levels of threat to their long-term survival due to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. Key opportunities for science to inform wildlife management are linked to increasing our understanding of how changes in climatic conditions will impact species, as well as whether, and how, managers may facilitate species’ ability to adapt to change. However, information on species’ climate change vulnerability and the effectiveness of potential conservation actions are not yet strategically collected or collated; this disconnect between threat level, ecological research and conservation practice is reducing opportunities to guide decision-making, ultimately hindering conservation outcomes.
To demonstrate this point, we explore how existing knowledge can be brought together in a pressure-state-response framework that connects climate change ecology, conservation evidence assessments and management. Seabirds in Western Europe are used as a case study, as they are well-researched and vulnerable to climate change. Using a combination of literature reviews and surveys, we identify the main threats posed to seabirds in the region by climate change, as well as existing conservation actions that could be applied to lessen the impacts of each of these threats.
Our results show that 29% of the types of actions considered for reducing the impacts of climate change on seabirds are either associated with conflicting evidence or lack sufficient information to make robust conclusions about their effectiveness: actions aiming at restoring or creating habitat, encouraging relocation, treating or preventing disease, and reducing inter-species competition all have limited or mixed evidence to support their use. Moreover, several threats identified by conservation practitioners as being of high priority to address, such as changes in prey abundance and eutrophication, have few or no viable identified actions to reduce their impact on seabirds.
We suggest that existing knowledge on species vulnerability to climate change and evidence of conservation action effectiveness should be more commonly brought together in tailored pressure-state-response frameworks. Such an approach provides an easily transferable platform for identifying missing information and areas where connections between research and management need to be tightened to improve conservation outcomes.
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