Trade-offs and synergies between bird conservation and wildfire suppression in the face of global change.

Published online
07 Nov 2018
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Regos, A. & Hermoso, V. & D'Amen, M. & Guisan, A. & Brotons, L.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Europe & Spain


The combined effects of climate change and other factors, such as land-use change or fire disturbance, pose daunting challenges for biodiversity conservation world-wide. We predicted the future effectiveness of the Natura 2000 (N2000), the current network of protected areas (PA) in Europe, at maintaining and representing suitable environmental conditions for a set of 79 bird species between 2000 and 2050 in a fire-prone area, strongly affected by land abandonment processes in North East Spain. We then compared PA performance with a set of alternative priority areas for conservation, which consider fire-vegetation dynamics, selected by using a conservation planning tool (Marxan). Fire-vegetation dynamics were modelled using a process-based model (Medfire Model) under alternative fire management and climate change scenarios. Bird communities were predicted using the spatially explicit species assemblage modelling framework (SESAM) and species distribution models that hierarchically integrate climate change and wildfire-vegetation dynamics. The amount of suitable environmental conditions within the N2000 network was predicted to fall by around 15%, on average, over the next decades in relation to the initial conditions but could be partially modulated by fire management policies in future. The efficiency of the current PA system was predicted to decrease from 17.4% to 15% between 2000 and 2050. However, a more efficient PA system could be achieved with a conservation planning approach that explicitly considers fire-vegetation dynamics and their management. Synthesis and applications. Our findings show: (a) how the current Natura 2000 could still hold an important bird conservation value by 2050; (b) how the relocation of some protected areas should be considered in order to substantially increase bird conservation effectiveness; and (c) how the integration of fire-vegetation dynamics, fire management policies and their objectives within conservation planning provide "win-win" solutions for bird conservation and fire prevention in fire-prone abandoned landscapes.

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