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Researchers receive scholarship to develop dynamics

image: A team of researchers from the University of Tennessee and Mississippi State University received a USDA NIFA grant to develop and apply a framework for optimizing climate change risk-based conservation investment strategies for forest biodiversity. Four taxonomic groups (amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles) in the central and southern Appalachian region are the focus of the work.
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Credit: Photo of a view from Great Smoky Mountains National Park by T. Johnson, courtesy of UTIA.

Changes in climate and land use are major threats to biodiversity. As the nation searches for solutions, a fundamental examination of our approach to conservation planning becomes essential, fueling the latest collaborative research from the University of Tennessee. The research team received a $650,000 grant to develop a dynamic solution that addresses the uncertainties inherent in conservation planning.

The National Climate Task Force recently unveiled a conservation strategy to achieve the goal of protecting 30% of the nation’s land and waters by 2030, also known as the 30×30 goal announced last year by President Joe Biden. . Conservation targets such as these highlight the pressing need to improve our ability to forecast likely changes in species ranges and identify species types and areas to protect them.

Building on lessons learned from managing financial asset portfolios, the project team will create conservation portfolios to manage climate change risk. Specifically, the researchers will address the above constraints by creating a dynamic series of portfolios of target sites for biodiversity conservation over time.

Responsive portfolios can accommodate updated information, providing conservation agencies with opportunities to update and adjust conservation plans accordingly. In addition, the dynamic framework is easily adaptable for use in other regions to determine where and when to target a variety of forest ecosystems, such as carbon storage conservation, nutrient cycling, and water and air pollution mitigation. .

“When people consider conservation planning, they tend to think more about where to protect. However, while it is important where to focus, the question of when to invest needs to be taken into account,” said Seong-Hoon Cho, lead researcher and professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “The project builds on this idea and further highlights how conservation programs can integrate risk diversification as they face an era of change and uncertainty. We hope that the outcome of the project will provide conservation agencies with a novel set of portfolios for conservation over time that adapts to future uncertainties based on up-to-date information, with opportunities to revise initial planning.”

In addition to Cho, UT team members include Paul Armsworth, Monica Papes, and Xingli Giam of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Charles Sims of the Howard Baker Center/Department of Economics, along with Seong Yun of the Mississippi Department of Agricultural Economics. . State University.

The three-year grant is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which provides leadership and funding for programs that advance science related to agriculture.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching, and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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