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Assisted migration as a climate change adaptation strategy: lessons from restoration and plant reintroductions

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Climate change is thought to threaten between 25% and 50% of global plant biodiversity. In response to this looming crisis, the calls for the translocation, or assisted migration, of species to ensure the survival of this biodiversity have been increasing. The concept has its detractors, and is not without risk, but few studies have documented the success of the approach or veracity of the risk. Here we review both the ecological restoration literature and the plant reintroduction literature to discover insights into the promises and pitfalls of translocating species as an adaptation strategy in the face of our changing climate. Although habitat restoration and the assisted migration of rare plant species have different objectives and goals, they share the practice of translocating species from their site of origin to a new one. It is primarily the scale at which the movement of those species occurs that distinguishes the two.

Affiliations: 1: Plant Biology and Conservation, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, USA ; 2: Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, USA ; 3: Department of Environmental Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA ; 4: Stantec Consulting Services Inc., De Pere, WI, USA


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