Protected areas (PAs) play a fundamental role in the conservation of biodiversity, as well as ecosystem services, including provisioning services such as water, timber and food, in addition to cultural and spiritual services. However, PAs are under heavy and increasing threats from anthropogenic pressures, which are now being exacerbated by climate change.
Climate change impacts have indeed already been observed on biodiversity. These impacts are causing shifts in the distribution of species, as well as reductions in population sizes, and even extinctions of local populations. This means that PAs that have been created to protect certain species or ecosystem types may not do so in the future. However, such sites may become important for other species or ecosystems of conservation concern, and thereby play a key role in helping them to adapt to climate change. PAs are also a very useful tool in mitigating climate change, notably by optimising carbon sequestration and storage, in particular by preventing deforestation and forest degradation (which constitute a major source of greenhouse gas emissions), and by supporting ecosystem-based adaptation for the benefit of people.
It is therefore crucial to gain a better understanding of the vulnerability of PAs in the face of climate change and the suitability of the existing PA network, in order to design appropriate management and adaptation actions.