The Purpose of AdaptWest

Because conservation at the scale of large landscapes has large socioeconomic costs and benefits, society increasingly demands that such planning be informed by the best available scientific information. The availability of good information increases the likelihood of efficient allocation of conservation resources to those areas that can maximize protection of biodiversity. 

This is especially true as conservationists respond to the complex and uncertain ecological changes triggered by climate change.To date, systematic conservation plans have been based on current patterns of biodiversity. However, climate-driven shifts in biomes, species, and ecosystem functions have the potential to make plans based on current patterns of biodiversity less effective. Conservation strategies that lack access to information on the location of areas that maximize resiliency and climate adaptation may misallocate resources by allowing key areas to remain unprotected. 

Recognizing this challenge, agencies and non-governmental organizations are increasingly addressing climate-change adaptation in their conservation-planning processes. However, without a clear sense of the pros and cons of the available approaches, users may apply the most recently publicized method out of context of the information needs of a particular planning process.

To help fill these information gaps, the AdaptWest project team will:

  • Develop, test, and document a decision-support process for climate-adaptation planning that integrates multiple methods in a coherent manner;
  • Explore the conceptual relationship between alternative methods for priority area mapping in order to better inform future applications of the methods in planning;
  • Compare spatial overlap in priority areas suggested by different methods, and evaluate whether areas identified by one method constitute “umbrellas” for conservation targets derived from other approaches;
  • Evaluate the relationship of multi-faceted climate-adaptation planning to other multi-track 
  • prioritization approaches (e.g., coarse-filter/fine-filter/focal species);
  • Address how connectivity can best be considered for dynamic landscapes when planning for climate change resiliency;
  • Compare the use of the integrated planning methodology across a range of contrasting planning contexts and regions throughout the western US and Canada;
  • Provide data on priority areas that will support efforts by agency and NGO partners to address regional-scale adaptation potential and resiliency in current and future planning processes.