Tools for integrating range change, extinction risk and climate change information into conservation management

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Ecological niche models (ENMs) are the primary tool used to describe and forecast the potential influence of climate change on biodiversity. However, ENMs do not directly account for important biological and landscape processes likely to affect range dynamics at a variety of spatial scales. Recent advances to link ENMs with population models have focused on the fundamental step of integrating dispersal and metapopulation dynamics into forecasts of species geographic ranges. Here we use a combination of novel analyses and a synthesis of findings from published plant and animal case studies to highlight three seldom recognised, yet important, advantages of linking ENMs with demographic modelling approaches: 1) they provide direct measures of extinction risk in addition to measures of vulnerability based on change in the potential range area or total habitat suitability. 2) They capture life-history traits that permit population density to vary in different ways in response to key spatial drivers, conditioned by the processes of global change. 3) They can be used to explore and rank the cost effectiveness of regional conservation alternatives and demographically oriented management interventions. Given these advantages, we argue that coupled methods should be used preferentially where data permits and when conservation management decisions require intervention, prioritization, or direct estimates of extinction risk.

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