Climate-Ready Conservation

Climate-Ready Conservation

Conservation programs should seek to preserve aspects of biodiversity that are valued and not subject to inevitable change. This proposition is based on two observations: “climate change is expected to lead to significant ecological change” and “biodiversity is valued in multiple ways”.

  • As the climate continues to change the impacts on species and ecosystems will become significant and widespread.
  • Multiple aspects of biodiversity are important and valued by society. Species, ecosystems and other natural features are valued, the diversity of these features is valued, and multiple aspects of any one feature can be valued.
  • As climate change has greater impacts, some aspects of biodiversity will be affected much more than others.
  • The timing of such changes is impossible to anticipate accurately, but it is feasible to anticipate which aspects might change and which might persist. This provides the basis of practical approaches for anticipating the implications for biodiversity and the ecosystem benefits and services that society enjoys.

In the medium to long term it is likely to become necessary to focus management on those aspects of biodiversity that have some chance of persisting, while allowing other aspects to change naturally even if they are valued. While this change in focus may occur in the future, it does have implications for how biodiversity management is planned and carried out in the near term. Current management can be hoped to have a long legacy, future decisions will be best informed by decades of forward-looking adaptive management and research, and future preferences will be shaped by the experiences of change and innovation encountered in the near term.


Michael Dunlop

Veronica Doerr

For more information

AdaptNRM web site

Dunlop M, Parris, H, Ryan, P, Kroon, F 2013 Climate-ready conservation objectives: a scoping study, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp. 102.

Prober SM, Dunlop M (2011) Climate change: a cause for new biodiversity conservation objectives but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Ecological Management & Restoration 12(1):2-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00563.x


Sydney Coastal Council Group (SCCG) climate-readiness assessment process

Sydney Coastal Council Group (SCCG) commissioned CSIRO to develop a tool to help councils consider the needs of long-term climate adaptation as they developed biodiversity conservation projects to be funded within their Sydney’s Salty Communities Program, funded by the Australian Government. Developing the tool was an opportunity to implement with local government two key adaptation innovations developed by CSIRO. The ‘climate-ready’ approach to adaptation emphasises the inevitability in the long-term of significant levels of ecological change, and the need to consider impacts of multiple different aspects of biodiversity that are valued by the community

For more information

Dunlop M., and P. Ryan (2016) Climate-ready biodiversity management: a tool to help design biodiversity projects in the face of climate change. CSIRO.

The Climate-Ready Lens

The Climate-Ready Lens helps you look at the decision-making processes or program logic of a conservation approach to identify risks that the approach will not achieve its desired outcomes under climate change. It is a structured process that will help diagnose strengths and weaknesses in the long-term effectiveness of biodiversity conservation approaches. Our primary focus is on the structure of a conservation approach and its decision-making process – how information is used to make decisions and set priorities and actions – rather than on the detailed biophysical information about climate change and its impacts. Essentially, the Lens identifies risks by examining the planned relationship between decision-making processes and conservation actions and their intended outcomes. Ultimately, the Climate-Ready Lens will help identify solutions if a conservation approach is not yet fully climate-ready.

Assessing the vulnerability of decision-making processes to climate change

Most climate change vulnerability assessments focus on the vulnerability of the physical environment to a changing climate. Yet the processes we use to make decisions can be just as vulnerable to climate change. This type of vulnerability arises when the assumptions that underpin our decision processes are likely to be violated as the climate changes, resulting in decisions that will ultimately fail to achieve our objectives. The ‘Climate-ready Lens’ has been developed using two case studies in New South Wales, Australia. Ultimately, assessing vulnerability of decision-making processes themselves, and adapting them, can be a positive, if not essential, complement to adapting the implementation of on-ground activities.

Climate-Ready Conservation Approaches

The Lens considers the relationship between activities and outcomes given the range of possible changes in biodiversity under climate change, including the in-situ responses of species, their regional shifts and responses to new species, changes in the structure, function and composition of ecosystems, changes in natural ecosystem processes and in the types of ecosystems, as well as changes in the intensity of human influences on ecosystem processes.

In the context of the possible responses of biodiversity, the Lens examines the relevant components of a conservation approach, including its consideration of the multiple aspects of biodiversity that are valued by governments and society, whether the way objectives are framed can accommodate the ecological changes that will result from climate change, whether conservation approaches will remain effective under many possible futures, and whether a conservation approach has longer-term plans for learning and improvement through collaboration with stakeholders and interactions with society in general.