How to decide whether to move species threatened by climate change

Tracy M. Rout (1), Eve McDonald-Madden (2), Tara G. Martin (3), Nicola J. Mitchell (4), Hugh P. Possingham (5), Doug P. Armstrong (6)

1 Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, t.rout2@uq.edu.au, @tracyrout.

2 Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, e.mcdonaldmadden@uq.edu.au.

3 CSIRO EcoSciences Precinct, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Tara.Martin@csiro.au.

4 School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Nicola.mitchell@uwa.edu.au.

5 Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, h.possingham@uq.edu.au.

6 Wildlife Ecology Group, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, D.P.Armstrong@massey.ac.nz.

Introducing species to areas outside their historical range to secure their future under climate change is a controversial strategy for preventing extinction. While the debate over the wisdom of this strategy continues, such introductions are already taking place. Previous frameworks for analysing the decision to introduce have lacked a quantifiable management objective and mathematically rigorous problem formulation. Here we develop the first rigorous quantitative framework for deciding whether or not a particular introduction should go ahead, which species to prioritize for introduction, and where and how to introduce them. It can also be used to compare introduction with alternative management actions, and to prioritise questions for future research. We apply the framework to a case study of tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) in New Zealand. While simple and accessible, this framework can accommodate uncertainty in predictions and values. It provides essential support for the existing IUCN guidelines by presenting a quantitative process for better decision-making about conservation introductions.

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