Taking stock of the assisted migration debate
HEWITT, Nina; KLENK, Nicole; SMITH, Andrea L.; BAZELY, Dawn R.; Yan, Norman; WOOD, Stepan; MACLELLAN, James I.; LIPSIG-MUMMÉ, Carla; HENRIQUES, Irene
Title: Taking stock of the assisted migration debate
Author: HEWITT, Nina; KLENK, Nicole; SMITH, Andrea L.; BAZELY, Dawn R.; Yan, Norman; WOOD, Stepan; MACLELLAN, James I.; LIPSIG-MUMMÉ, Carla; HENRIQUES, Irene
Citation: Bilogical conservation, 2011, Vol. 144, No. 11, pp. 2560-2572
Assisted migration was proposed several decades ago as a means of addressing the impacts of climate change on species populations. While its risks and benefits have been debated, and suggestions for planning and management given, there is little consensus within the academic literature over whether to adopt it as a policy. We evaluated the main features of the assisted migration literature including the study methods, taxonomic groups, geographic regions and disciplines involved. We further assessed the debate about the use of assisted migration, the main barriers to consensus, and the range of recommendations put forth in the literature for policy, planning or implementation. Commentaries and secondary literature reviews were as prevalent as first-hand scientific research and attention focussed on a global rather than regional level. There was little evidence of knowledge transfer outside of the natural sciences, despite the obvious policy relevance. Scholarly debate on this topic has intensified during the last 3 years. We present a conceptual framework for evaluating arguments in the debate, distinguishing among the direct risks and benefits to species, ecosystems and society on the one hand, and other arguments regarding scientific justification, evidence-base and feasibility on the other. We also identify recommendations with potential to advance the debate, including careful evaluation of risks, benefits and trade-offs, involvement of relevant stakeholders and consideration of the complementarity among assisted migration and less risk-tolerant strategies. We conclude, however, that none of these will solve the fundamental, often values-based, challenges in the debate. Solutions are likely to be complex, context-dependent and multi-faceted, emerging from further research, discussion and experience.
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