Stress testing protected areas against global change

Elsevier, Biological Conservation, Volume 291, March 2024
Hermoso V.

Efforts to preserve biodiversity, mostly in protected areas (PA), are challenged by global change. To date, most of assessments are biased towards the impacts of climate change alone, focused on changes in the distribution of some species within PAs, missing other key ecological aspects, such as ecosystem functions, genetic and trait diversity, network analyses across multiple PAs or interactions of global change drivers. For this reason, more integrated assessments are needed. Stress-tests, commonly used in the financial sector, are tools that help evaluate the impact of interacting drivers of change and plan action to minimize risks, in a standardized, and transparent way. Like in the financial counterpart, a stress-test to networks of PA could help identify the vulnerability of the network to future impacts, and communicate the risks associated with those impacts. Moreover, the results from the test could help plan proactively monitoring and management to increase the resilience of PA networks to the impacts of global change and, ultimately, the persistence of biodiversity. Existing efforts towards scenario development (e.g., The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; IPBES), biodiversity monitoring programs (e.g., The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network; GEOBON) and biodiversity indicators systems (e.g., Essential Biodiversity Variables) could be the foundation for a stress-test to PA networks. However, the future implementation of these tests would benefit from a coordinated supervision to ensure that assessments are standardized, the results communicated transparently and that adequate measures are planned whenever needed, like in the financial analogue.