Climate velocity informs conservation options in a warming world

23 May 2018


A simple measure describing the speed and direction of climate movement could help design future protected areas and conserve ocean biodiversity, a University of Queensland-led international study reveals.

PhD candidate in UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Isaac Brito Morales, said the metric, known as “climate velocity”, could help address conservation issues in a warming world.

“Climate change contributes to the shift in the location of some species and this tool can help capture these changes without requiring extensive knowledge and data on individual species,” he said.

Mr Brito Morales said the tool could help in the design of protected areas, new and disappearing climates, numbers of species unique to defined geographic locations, and shifts in these locations.

“To better inform conservation planning, climate velocity results can be tailored by adding such information as species’ dispersal capabilities, physiological tolerance, and potential routes of movements,” he said.

“There is untapped potential for using climate velocity and climate-velocity trajectories to inform the design of new protected areas and their networks, conserve ocean biodiversity, and in planning conservation actions.”

He said the study reviewed the research on climate velocity, highlighted how the metric was already applied in conservation-related research, and how customisation could enhance its usefulness in conservation.  

“To stimulate future research using climate velocity, the study introduces a new free package for the statistical computing and graphics software R, called vocc.”

Mr Brito Morales’ principal supervisor is a paper co-author, Professor Anthony Richardson of UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics.

The study, completed by a consortium of researchers in Australia, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States, is published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.03.009)

Media: Isaac Brito Morales,, +61 7 334 67784.