Prioritising conservation actions for biodiversity: lessening the impact from habitat fragmentation and climate change  

Nicholas W. Synes, Aurore Ponchon, Stephen Charles Frederick Palmer, Patrick E. Osborne, Greta Bocedi, Justin Mark John Travis, Kevin Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The interacting impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change present a substantial threat for biodiversity, constituting a ‘deadly anthropogenic cocktail’. A range of conservation actions has been proposed to allow biodiversity to respond to those environmental changes. However, determining the relative effectiveness of these actions has been hampered by incomplete evidence. Empirical studies have provided important insights to inform conservation, but the challenge of considering multiple actions at large spatial and temporal scales is considerable. We adopt an individual-based modelling approach to qualitatively assess the effectiveness of alternative conservation actions in facilitating range expansion and patch occupancy for eight virtual species. We test actions to: (i) improve the quality of existing habitat patches, (ii) increase the permeability of the surrounding matrix, (iii) restore degraded habitat, (iv) create new habitat patches to form stepping-stones or (v) create new habitat to enlarge existing habitat patches. These actions are systematically applied to six real landscapes of the UK, which differ in their degree of habitat fragmentation and availability. Creating new habitat close to existing patches typically provides the strongest benefits for both range expansion and patch occupancy across species and landscapes. However, some landscapes may be so degraded that even under unrealistically high levels of management action, species' performances cannot be rescued. We identify that it is possible to develop a triage of conservation actions at the landscape, species and investment level, thereby providing timely evidence to inform action on the ground to lessen the hangover from the deadly anthropogenic cocktail.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108819
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date13 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

NWS was supported by an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre grant (EP/G03690X/1). AP benefited from a European Union's Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions grant agreement No 753420 (Eco-EvoProspectS project). This work was also supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J008001/1), and funding from the Forestry Commission. We are grateful to all the participants of the 'Purple Pumpkin' meeting held in October 2018 in the Corbières, France who helped make this work substantially progress.


  • habitat loss
  • dispersal
  • range expansion
  • patch occupancy
  • Habitat restoration
  • individual based modelling
  • Individual-based modelling
  • Habitat loss
  • Dispersal
  • Range expansion
  • Patch occupancy


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