Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Conservation in the Context of Climate Change

Climate change is fundamentally altering the risks and approaches needed to preserve species and ecosystems worldwide. Soon, many of the species on Earth will be “climate refugees”, no longer able to survive within their historic/native ranges. Likewise, many of the human-wildlife conflicts that currently exist will be exacerbated by climate change, while the very ecosystems that all species depend on will be threatened.

How we save these species and systems isn’t just a biological question; it’s an ethical, economic and social question as well.

At IBES, we’re leveraging our world-class strength in environmental social science along with our leaders in conservation biology to evaluate and develop strategies that will save species from extinction, reduce human-wildlife conflicts and restore native ecosystems.


Climate change is expected to endanger tens of thousands of species by the end of this century. This will occur because many species can only tolerate particular climate conditions, those conditions will no longer exist where those species are currently found, and many species will be blocked from shifting their geographic distribution by highways, urban sprawl and agricultural landscapes. 
Some of the biggest challenges for promoting wildlife conservation and advancing human livelihoods involve making sure that people, their livestock, and the wildlife that live alongside them each have enough to eat.
Over the last 500 years, logging, agriculture, and population growth have decimated Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, an ecosystem that once spanned 1000 miles of coastline and hosted unparalleled biodiversity. Many plants and animals native to the forest are now on the brink of extinction, and small farmers living in the midst of the largest remaining forest fragments have few options for rural socioeconomic development.