Species populations often don’t stay in place. Many move because of climate change, or because the species lives in intrinsically dynamic ‘metapopulations’. One year a species may be thriving in a nature reserve and the next year they may be doing much better somewhere else. So we can’t just choose one place to conserve species. We need to design networks of reserves, so that if one population disappears, it can be recolonised from somewhere else.
We’ve mapped populations of butterflies across the UK, including the Marsh Fritillary in Wales, and used population dynamic models to design the best network of nature reserves for these species. We’ve also weighed up the pros and cons of actively moving populations of species that can’t outrun climate change (‘Managed Relocation’).
We use our models to help conservation agencies. For example we’ve worked with Natural England to identify the best places to restore seagrass to our coasts, with Natural Resources Wales to measure habitat connectivity for dormice, with Paignton Zoo to reintroduce the critically endangered plant Strapwort into Cornwall, the US Forest Service to assess the risks of invasive plants, and with the Met Office to improve the pollen forecast for hay fever sufferers.