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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

The Wallace Initiative: Preserving Biodiversity in an Era of Change

Last year during a meeting at Copenhagen in March, our program leader Andy Jarvis performed a set of very interesting presentations on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and biodiversity. Luckily, and thanks to our hard work, and to substantial efforts done by Jeff Price from WWF, Rachel Warren from Tyndall Centre,  and to the funding provided by GBIFThe Wallace Initiative was born. Five major areas comprise the Wallace Initiative:

  1. Assessment of impacts of climate change on species distributions for (a) refugia determination and (b) improving knowledge on extinction risks
  2. Mapping of potential corridors for species
  3. Design of REDD mechanisms based on carbon distribution and potential refugia
  4. Drive protected area design in the 21st century
  5. Provide critical conclusions to aid the development of adaptation plans

These can also be seen (along with additional remarks and preliminary results) in a presentation:

We then held a meeting in Tyndall Centre in August, while I was visiting the UK to receive training on UK MetOffice’s PRECIS modeling system. I took advantage of that trip and met with Rachel and Jeff, to show them the whole set of preliminary results. The next meeting was held in CIAT in late January 2010. During that meeting we continued our work and created a simple protocol for smart planning of biodiversity conservation in the 21st century, based on projected biodiversity losses and current threats to ecosystems due to anthropogenic activities.

A new member of the Wallace Initiative was then appointed. Amy McDougall, a PhD student from University of East Anglia, under Rachel’s supervision. We invited Amy to Colombia, to learn the whole thing of modeling that we’re doing at CIAT under The Wallece Inititative framework. Some of her feelings:

“It has been said that modelers are the James Bonds of the Scientific Community, stepping out into the tropical heat of a Cali evening, there was no one I felt less like.  However, I came to Cali on a mission- as a newly appointed member of the Wallace Initiative Team, it was time to learn my trade.”

Her PhD project is designed to explore species distributions using MaxEnt coupled (in the future) with CIAS, Tyndall’s Community Integrated Assessment System:

“The idea is to search for species refugia with climate change, with the hope of designing a protected area network preserving such refugia.”

Which perfectly fits within The Wallace Initiative aims.

“Three months into my PhD I never really expected to leave my desk in Norfolk Terrace, University of East Anglia, Norwich. But, here I was in Colombia,  a world away from Norwich, well 5000 miles, the mountains soaring all around.  Norwich is particularly flat.

It was my first morning, after waking up at some unearthly hour, I got the call- Julian Ramirez – my contact at CIAT, was ready to meet.  Then the real business began…”


Biodiversidade (Via oneworld365 @Flickr)

Amy was here to learn how to model species distributions for her to be able to further model animal species: mammals, aves, reptiles and amphibians. Doing basically the same that we’ve now completed for plant species.  For three days, I tutored her, metaphorically holding her hand through every stage of the process- from the species data file to future projections.  Poring over every script, meticulously pointing out how the process worked, so one day she could run it on her own.

“And then the day came… here I was beginning to run the model on my own.  The first big step, for which I had to call for aid, was getting the command window to find the correct directory.  Easy when you know how. But then I was away, the sever digesting the mammal species data points, spitting out MaxEnt models at speed with the press of the return key. I was truly excited as the folders, so carefully prepared by Julian, started to flood with results.”

So, as Amy’s visit to Colombia ended, she went home happy in the knowledge that she completed her mission. Though this is only the beginning.

Further: We’re presenting part of our work at the Society for Conservation Biology: “Use of bioclimatic models to identify refugia and conservation prioritization in a changing climate“, by Jeff Price, et al.

We expect to have a new meeting in late March, in Tyndall Centre’s headquarters, Norwich, UK. During that meeting, Andy Jarvis and I will be presenting all our new results, and will be planning further steps and sharing knowledge with other partners. Will keep you posted.

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