Shifting the conservation paradigm: a synthesis of options for renovating nature under climate change

Suzanne M. Prober, Veronica A. J. Doerr, Linda M. Broadhurst, Kristen J. Williams, Fiona Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in Earth's climate are accelerating, prompting increasing calls to ensure that investments in ecological restoration and nature conservation accommodate such changes. To acknowledge this need, we propose the term "ecological renovation" to describe ecological management and nature conservation actions that actively allow for environmental change. To evaluate and progress the development of ecological renovation and related intervention options in a climate change context, we reviewed the literature and established a typology of options that have been proposed. We explored how these options address emerging principles underpinning climate-adapted conservation goals and whether the balance of approaches reflected in our typology is likely to be sufficient given expected rapid rates of climate change. Our typology recognizes a matrix of 23 intervention option types arranged on the basis of underpinning ecological mechanisms ("ameliorate changing conditions" or "build adaptive capacity") on one axis, and the nature of the tools used to manipulate them ("low regrets" or "climate targeted") on the other. Despite a burgeoning literature since 2008, we found that the majority of effort has consistently focused on low-regrets adaptation approaches that aim to build adaptive capacity. This is in many ways desirable, but a paradigm shift enabling greater attention to climate-targeted approaches is likely to be needed as climate change accelerates. When assessed against five emerging principles for setting nature conservation goals in a changing climate, only one option type could deliver to all five, and we identified a conflict between climate-targeted options and "wildness" values that calls for deeper evaluation. Importantly, much of the inference in the 473 reviewed studies was drawn from ecological reasoning and modeling, with only 16% offering new empirical evidence. We also noted significant biases toward North America and Europe, forest ecosystems, trees, and vertebrates. To address these limitations and help shift the paradigm toward humans as "renovators" rather than "restorers" of a prior world, we propose that ecological researchers contribute by (1) informing societal discourse toward adapting nature conservation goals to climate change, (2) adjusting and upscaling conservation planning to accommodate this suite of climate-adapted goals, and (3) reconceptualizing experimental approaches to increase empirical evidence and expedite innovation of tools to address change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01333
Number of pages23
JournalEcological Monographs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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