With climate change becoming a dismal reality, scientists are for the first time objectively evaluating ways to help species adapt to rapid climate change and other environmental threats. They hope to implement strategies that were considered too radical for serious consideration as recently as five or 10 years ago.
Among these radical strategies currently being considered is so-called "managed relocation."
Managed relocation, which is also known as "assisted migration," involves manually moving species into more accommodating habitats where they are not currently found.
This is being considered as a new, ground-breaking tool to help decision-makers determine if, when and how to use managed relocation.
The researchers' tool is ground-breaking because managed relocation has been categorically eschewed by some scientists for fear that relocated species would overpopulate their new habitats, cause extinctions of local species, or clog water pipes as invasive zebra muscles have done in the Great Lakes.
Nevertheless, some conservationists and groups have already used managed relocation or are currently considering doing so.
As to why managed relocation, a once-taboo and potentially harmful strategy, is now being seriously considered, Jessica Hellmann of the University of Notre Dame, said, "Iit is becomingly overwhelmingly evident that climate change is a reality; and it is fast and large. Consequences will arise within decades, not centuries."
"So, action seems much more important now than it did even five or 10 years ago when atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases were lower. Now, we are committed to greater degrees of climate change," she added.
According to Hellmann, "We have previously been able to say, 'let nature run its course.' But, because humans have already changed the world, there is no letting nature run its course anymore. Now, action, like inaction, has potential negative consequences."
"We must develop new tools and new ways to balance the risks of inaction vs. action," said David Richardson of Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
Managed relocation is not the only controversial adaptation strategy currently being considered by scientists.
Other such strategies include fertilizing the oceans to increase their absorption of greenhouse gases and thereby reduce climate change, conserving huge migratory corridors that may extend thousands of kilometers, and preserving the genetic diversity of threatened species in seed banks.