The Preservation Predicament

By CORNELIA DEAN
Published: January 29, 2008

Conservation organizations that work to preserve biologically rich landscapes are confronting a painful realization: In an era of climate change, many of their efforts may be insufficient or beside the point.

Some scientists say efforts to re-establish or maintain salmon runs in Pacific Northwest streams will be of limited long-term benefit to the fish if warming makes the streams inhospitable. Others worry about efforts to restore the fresh water flow of the Everglades, given that much of it will be under water as sea level rises. Some geologists say it may be advisable to abandon efforts to preserve some fragile coastal barrier islands and focus instead on allowing coastal marshes to migrate inland, as sea level rises.

And everywhere, ecologists and conservation biologists wonder how landscapes already under preservation will change with the climate.

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