Developing dynamic law and policy for conservation introductions under climate change

Phillipa McCormack (1), Professor Jan McDonald (2), Associate Professor Michael Lockwood (3), Louise Gilfedder (4)

1 Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, 7005,, @PhilMack

2 Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, 7005,

3 School of Land and Food, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, 7005,

4 Sustainable Landscapes Branch, Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, 7000,

Climate-induced ecological changes pose major challenges to biodiversity conservation laws that have traditionally focussed on preserving the status quo.   To be effective under climate change, conservation laws will need to accommodate more interventionist management strategies, like species introductions, alongside traditional strategies like protected areas and threat abatement.   Conservation introductions involve translocating species outside of their historical habitat, to protect and restore species (assisted colonisation) or ecosystem functions (ecological replacements).  Though controversial, these strategies are likely to form a critical part of management responses that may supplement independent species distribution shifts and mitigate biodiversity decline.   Existing Australian laws can create barriers to the effective use of conservation introductions, including through legal objectives that prioritise native and rare species and historical ecological conditions over resilient and interactive biodiversity.   The regulatory framework  for  conservation  introductions  serves  as  an  example  of  the  legal  hurdles  for  adaptive, high-intervention strategies to conserve species as they shift their distribution under climate change.  The regulatory framework for conservation introductions may need to be separated from the operation of threatened species laws to introduce opportunities for experimentation and broader ecosystem benefits. Strategies are also needed to better integrate in-situ and ex-situ conservation across landscapes, for a broader and more responsive approach to conservation as the climate, species distributions and natural systems change.