The Branch Project

In the BRANCH project research is carried out on the required spatial adjustments to provide nature the chance to adapt to climate change. The main questions in the project focuses on the way climate zones are shifting and what the desired dispersion of biotic communities and species is. What are the bottlenecks if species shift? And how can the landscape be adjusted in order to increase the spatial coherence of nature?

In the project models were developed about the reaction of nature to climate change (Change magazine, 2006b). Potential living areas are put on maps and this makes it visible which area stays suited for a specific species, which area is a potential area for domestication and which areas will be abandoned by this species (Fig. 5.18). In the next step can be determined which part of the ecological network is climate proof and where adaptation measures are necessary (Fig. 5.19).

Fig. 5.19 Climate proof networks and required adaptation measures (Source: Berry et al., 2007)
Fig. 5.21 Increase of capacity (Source: Vos et al., 2007)

Depending on the situation, planning options are developed in order to give nature the best chance to adapt to climate change. In a situation where climate is suitable but the area is too isolated networks are connected (Fig. 5.20). If the connection is there but the capacity of the area is too low to jump to a 'climate suitable' area, the capacity of the areas in the 'link' must be enlarged (Fig. 5.21).

Both strategies make it easier for species to move to new areas if the climate changes. The robustness of the ecological network and the amount and quality of connections determines the chances to survive.

The most important results in the BRANCH project are (BRANCH partnership, 2007):

• More flexibility is required in the Habitat directive;

• The connectivity between Natura 2000 areas needs to be increased;

• In spatial planning long-term developments need to be incorporated more strongly;

• At a regional level landscapes need to be created, which enhance species to adapt to climate change;

• At strategic locations new habitats need to be created as compensation for abandoned areas, due to climate change.

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