S2.6 Sunday, Jan. 4 11:00 What would happen if we used physiological tolerances to design protected areas? Implications of politics and climate change for conservation planning SINCLAIR, BJ*; BARTON, MG; MCFARLANE, ML; TERBLANCHE, JS; Western University; Stellenbosch University; Nature Conservancy of Canada; Stellenbosch University email@example.com http://publish.uwo.ca/~bsincla7/
Insects are small ectotherms with a high surface area:volume ratio, and as such are particularly vulnerable to the abiotic environment. Models based on thermal tolerances and water balance can therefore be used to predict potential distribution and response to climate change of insects of economic, health, and conservation significance. The rapid shifts in habitat distribution with climate change mean that conservation of current habitats in situ may not ensure long-term conservation of species and ecosystems. In many places, those shifts may lead to relevant habitat spanning political borders. Predictive mechanistic physiological modeling could identify species vulnerable to geographic range shifts with climate change, and predicting the distribution of suitable habitat in the future. Using hypothetical insects in Southern Africa as a model, we ask three questions: 1) Can we use mechanistic models based on thermal tolerances and water availability to identify current and future areas of significance for species conservation? 2) To what extent would it be possible to design reserves based on physiology that will protect insects in their current and future geographic ranges? and 3) What is the potential impact of shifts across political borders on the ability to identify and implement physiology-based reserve design? Our conclusions should be applicable to other small ectotherms (or species dependent on them), and also to other taxa, for example plants, whose distributions are primarily governed by abiotic variables. Our conclusions are also relevant at other spatial scales and geographical locations, particularly around the North American Great Lakes.