Flexible conservation decisions for climate adaptation

Jonathan R. Rhodes, Paul R. Armsworth, Gwenllian Iacona, Payal Shah, Ascelin Gordon, Kerrie A. Wilson, Rebecca K. Runting, Brett A. Bryan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Climate change is transforming the decision-making landscape for many conservation organizations. Conservation planning and implementation under climate change are challenging due to uncertainties about climate impacts and the effectiveness of adaptation options. Strategically building flexibility into conservation plans so they can be adjusted over time in response to unforeseen events, or new information, is one solution to this challenge. Yet, there are a wide range of mechanisms to choose from to enhance flexibility and so there is a need for a more structured approach to inform building flexibility into conservation plans. To achieve this, we conceptualize flexible strategies as three types, procedural flexibility, resource flexibility, and action flexibility, and explicitly link these to climate risks and steps in conservation decision-making processes. We discuss how this framework can guide choices of flexible strategies, including identifying the costs and benefits, and illustrate this using examples. This provides a new conceptual tool for conservation organizations to make strategic choices about flexibility for climate adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-634
Number of pages13
JournalOne Earth
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 17 2022


  • adaptive governance
  • conservation planning
  • flexibility
  • option value
  • real-options analysis
  • reversibility
  • risk
  • structured decision-making
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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