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PLoS One. 2015 Apr 16;10(4):e0124014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124014. eCollection 2015.

Noah's Ark conservation will not preserve threatened ecological communities under climate change.

Author information

Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.
Resource Management and Conservation Division, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment, Hobart, Australia.
Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia; Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia; ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.



Effective conservation of threatened ecological communities requires knowledge of where climatically suitable habitat is likely to persist into the future. We use the critically endangered Lowland Grassland community of Tasmania, Australia as a case study to identify options for management in cases where future climatic conditions become unsuitable for the current threatened community.


We model current and future climatic suitability for the Lowland Themeda and the Lowland Poa Grassland communities, which make up the listed ecological community. We also model climatic suitability for the structurally dominant grass species of these communities, and for closely related grassland and woodland communities. We use a dynamically downscaled regional climate model derived from six CMIP3 global climate models, under the A2 SRES emissions scenario.


All model projections showed a large reduction in climatically suitable area by mid-century. Outcomes are slightly better if closely related grassy communities are considered, but the extent of suitable area is still substantially reduced. Only small areas within the current distribution are projected to remain climatically suitable by the end of the century, and very little of that area is currently in good condition.


As the climate becomes less suitable, a gradual change in the species composition, structure and habitat quality of the grassland communities is likely. Conservation management will need to focus on maintaining diversity, structure and function, rather than attempting to preserve current species composition. Options for achieving this include managing related grassland types to maintain grassland species at the landscape-scale, and maximising the resilience of grasslands by reducing further fragmentation, weed invasion and stress from other land uses, while accepting that change is inevitable. Attempting to maintain the status quo by conserving the current structure and composition of Lowland Grassland communities is unlikely to be a viable management option in the long term.

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