The new classification represents a paradigm shift in how conservationists address climate change

NEW YORK (14 January) – A new study co-authored by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) World Conservation Program and the University of British Columbia’s School of Forestry (UBC) has introduced a classification called Resistance-Resilience-Transformation (RRT) that enables the evaluation of Whether and to what extent the transformation of management toward a transformative action takes place in conservation. The team applied this classification to 104 climate adaptation projects funded by the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund over the past decade and found differing responses to transformation over time and across ecosystems, with more transformative actions being applied in forest ecosystems.

The RRT classification addresses a continuum of active resistance to changes – in order to maintain current or historical conditions – by accelerating environmental transitions through approaches such as relocation of species to new areas. The results show a shift from resistance to transformative measures in recent years. Most transformation-oriented projects have involved moving trees or other plants, usually in forest ecosystems, with exceptions that include, for example, the relocation of seabird species to a habitat they may be more likely to inhabit. Other ecosystems with more transformative projects have occurred in coastal aquatic and urban / suburban ecosystems.

Unprecedented environmental changes such as the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, storms, torrential rains and forest fires, have degraded ecosystems, disturbed the economy, and led to the loss of lives and livelihoods. Traditional conservation strategies may be ineffective in dealing with changing environmental conditions: wildfires can wipe out ancient protected growth forests and endangered species, and coastal conservation elevations can be inundated due to rising water levels. New conservation actions specifically aim to help ecosystems adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change in contrast to approaches that aim to preserve current or historical conditions. Transformational procedures, such as species transmission, were again controversial than they are today; They are now increasingly highlighted as essential ingredients for conservation in an effort to implement more robust projects for future climates. However, few studies have systematically examined adaptation projects on the ground with nature conservation to assess the extent to which transformational adaptation actions are being implemented, by which approach, and in which ecosystems.

This study was published in The Biology of Nature CommunicationsEvaluation of projects implemented in the United States, but the authors see wider applications. “Our classification can be applied to a range of conservation projects around the world to determine if there is a global shift in practice,” said co-author Lauren Ochs, a conservation scientist at WCS and an assistant professor at Stanford University. Guillaume Peterson St-Laurent, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, says the team is interested in creating an online platform to track projects evaluated with the new taxonomy around the world. “We hope to work with international teams in the not too distant future as we envision this new tool can be applied to many different environmental scenarios,” says Peterson Saint Laurent.

The multidisciplinary research team was supported by the Doris Duke charity, and the study was conducted in partnership with the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Experts Group.

Precautionary measures aimed at resistance or resilience – such as protecting healthy ecosystems – have an incredible value in the set of responses needed to confront current and future climate change. But the authors suggest that degraded ecosystems or functioning landscapes may require more transformative actions and public support to do so, in an effort to achieve the changing goals in a changing climate. This paper provides evidence of a paradigm shift, as practitioners and funders move further in this critical direction.


About the Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS conserves wildlife and wild places around the world through science, conservation measures, education, and inspiring people to appreciate nature. To fulfill our mission, WCS, headquartered in the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of the global conservation program in nearly 60 countries and in all of the world’s oceans and New York City’s five wildlife parks, which are visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its industry expertise, zoos, and aquariums to fulfill its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

About the Doris Duke Foundation (DDCF). The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of life of people through grants that support performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research, and child well-being, and by preserving the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s environmental program seeks to empower communities to protect and manage wildlife habitats and create effective built environments. Awareness of climate change as the biggest emerging threat to biodiversity – and the need to mitigate it aggressively without unnecessarily sacrificing wildlife habitat – shapes UNEP grant-making priorities. In addition to funding researchers from the WCS Global Conservation Program, the DDCF also funds the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund. For more information, visit

About the University of British Columbia College of Forestry (UBC). The School of Forestry at the University of British Columbia is a global leader in forestry education and research. What began in 1921, today embodies a comprehensive offer of undergraduate and graduate programs as well as world-renowned research and initiatives. Our programs and research draw from all disciplines of forest science and model a wide range of topics related to the forest interaction between our environment and all of those who live on our planet. For more information, visit

About the IUCN SSC

The IUCN SSC Climate Change Group is a global network of scientists working at the interface of research, policies and practices to promote nature conservation in a changing climate. With more than 60 members worldwide, we work at the forefront of climate change science and biodiversity to bridge knowledge gaps, build collaboration, and foster a community of practice around climate-focused conservation. Learn more at or follow us on Facebook (IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group) or Twitter (IUCN_CCSG).

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