In an era when global biodiversity is increasingly impacted by rapidly changing climate, efforts to conserve global biodiversity may be compromised if we do not consider the uneven distribution of climate-induced threats. Here, via a novel application of an aggregate Regional Climate Change Index (RCCI) that combines changes in mean annual temperature and precipitation with changes in their interannual variability, we assess multi-dimensional climate changes across the “Global 200” ecoregions – a set of priority ecoregions designed to “achieve the goal of saving a broad diversity of the Earth’s ecosystems” – over the 21st century. Using an ensemble of 62 climate scenarios, our analyses show that, between 1991–2010 and 2081–2100, 96% of the ecoregions considered will be likely (more than 66% probability) to face moderate-to-pronounced climate changes, when compared to the magnitudes of change during the past five decades. Ecoregions at high northern latitudes are projected to experience most pronounced climate change, followed by those in the Mediterranean Basin, Amazon Basin, East Africa, and South Asia. Relatively modest RCCI signals are expected over ecoregions in Northwest South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, yet with considerable uncertainties. Although not indicative of climate-change impacts per se, the RCCI-based assessment can help policy-makers gain a quantitative and comprehensive overview of the unevenly distributed climate risks across the G200 ecoregions. Whether due to significant climate change signals or large uncertainties, the ecoregions highlighted in the assessment deserve special attention in more detailed impact assessments to inform effective conservation strategies under future climate change.
Li, J., Lin, X., Chen, A., Peterson, T., Ma, K., Bertzky, M., … Poulter, B. (2013). Global Priority Conservation Areas in the Face of 21st Century Climate Change. PLoS ONE, 8(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0054839