Renewable energy sources are being promoted at a the global level to mitigate the effects of climate change and to meet increasing human demand for energy and food, despite a poor understanding in some cases of their potential ecological consequences. With Dr. W. Palen, I am developing a spatial decision-support tool for prioritizing energy – environment land allocation in British Columbia, using the case of small hydropower projects (Run-of-River, RoR).
1) Trade-offs between small hydropower development and species conservation in British Columbia
Individual RoR projects are considered to have only modest ecological footprints, but widespread implementation of such projects has the potential to generate substantial cumulative effects in both aquatic and terrestrial environments (e.g., reducing fish habitat and fragmenting forests). The primary challenge for conservation is the lack of a framework that simultaneously evaluates cumulative impacts on aquatic and terrestrial species and ecosystems, in the context of alternative development scenarios. This approach integrates the economics of power production (costs, revenue, power capacity), and the physical impacts of RoR on species and ecosystems, and identify win-win situations for biodiversity conservation and renewable energy, as well as potential conflicts.
2) Priorities for herpetofauna conservation under climate change
Amphibians and reptiles are at risk from climate change and from synergies with other threats, such as habitat loss, invasive species, and disease. With colleagues from the University of Bucharest (Dr. L. Rozylowicz), we performed the first spatial conservation prioritization exercise in Eastern Europe to identify strongholds for herpetofauna conservation in Romania.
We used species distribution models to evaluate current ranges, and to predict potential range shifts for 2020s and 2050s under various emission and dispersal scenarios. We used these results as inputs for estimating the irreplaceability of various planning units, as well as for evaluating the current protected areas system (part of the pan-European Natura 2000 network) for conserving herpetofauna, and to identify resilient areas for conservation in the face of climate change.