Introduction

Conservation of tropical forests in the face of climate change is an immense task, because of the huge losses already suffered to habitat loss and because of our still rudimentary knowledge of the biology of these systems. For example, in Southeast Asia, most moist tropical forest has already been lost, resulting in the severe imperil-ment of hundreds of well-known species, as well as the probable extinction of thousands of species before they are described by science (Brooks et al., 1997). In this setting, climate change will alter the abundance and distribution of many species whose continued existence is already precarious, in a landscape that permits little if any scope for range dynamics.

While conservationists struggle against habitat loss, we seemingly lack even a strategy for coping with climate change. But that strategy is not completely elusive. It is clear that a two-pronged response is needed to effectively cope with climate change (Hannah et al., 2002a). First, on-the-ground conservation strategies must begin to consider climate change. Expanding planning horizons, modeling and assessing possible climate change effects, and monitoring potentially sensitive species are all elements of climate change integrated conservation strategies that are within easy reach. The second, and more difficult, element of conservation response is that of constraining greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere (Hannah et al., 2002a). It is clear that no conservation strategy can be successful on the ground in the face of ever mounting climate change. Greenhouse gas levels must be stabilized in the atmosphere to limit climate change, implying a huge transition in the energy economy away from fossil fuels (Lackner, 2003).

In this chapter we will describe the challenges climate change poses to tropical forest conservation, followed by an analysis of the appropriate responses and their potential scope. We will then explore greenhouse gas stabilization in the atmosphere. Taking into account the possible scope of coping with climate change in conservation strategies, what level of atmospheric greenhouse gases is "safe" and what would be required to reach those targets?

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