Conservation and Migration

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Science  11 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6018, pp. 650-651
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6018.650-d

Effective conservation, whether of whole habitats, ecosystem services, or individual species, is a challenge at the best of times. Under climate change, it becomes a moving target. Add migratory species to the mix, and the challenge can seem even more daunting, not least because it requires detailed knowledge of the migration patterns over wide geographical areas over many years and predictions of how these patterns might change in the future as climate and habitat change.

Singh and Milner-Gulland studied the Saiga antelope, Saiga tatarica, a migratory ungulate found in Kazakhstan. The antelope has suffered a 95% population reduction in recent decades but is now the focus of conservation efforts. Aerial monitoring data of antelope movement over the past 25 years and rainfall, temperature, and vegetation data were used to understand the factors influencing antelope spring distribution patterns (the period when calving takes place and which is therefore critical for population viability). This knowledge is then applied to predict the location of future suitable spring habitats under scenarios of further climate change and to suggest likely locations for future protected areas for the antelope.

J. Appl. Ecol. 48, 35 (2011).

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