Conservation of Migratory Species in a Changing Climate: Strategic Behavior and Policy Design

Article excerpt



     A. Harvesting Games
     B. Issues Related to Non-Harvested Migratory Species


     A. North Pacific Fur Seals and Statecraft
     B. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
     C. Eastern African Wildebeest Migration



In an increasingly human-dominated world, it may become ever more challenging to maintain the viability of migratory species and even more difficult to restore their populations to sufficient levels to support robust migrations "as phenomena of abundance." (1) As the Earth's human population continues to grow, (2) and as individuals strive to improve their living standards, there are likely to be new pressures to intensify agricultural exploitation or other human uses of the land and water on which migratory species rely. Such pressures could impair the ability of these systems to support animal migrations. (3) Climate change will create additional challenges, as warming temperatures and changing hydrologic regimes alter habitat characteristics, while potentially decoupling phenological relationships that play key roles in the dynamics of migratory populations. (4) Those same climatic changes will also affect the intensity of human demands on land and water resources by altering the potential productivity of agricultural lands and increasing demands for irrigation water to augment yields. (5)

Following Professor Wilcove's explanation of the major anthropogenic threats to migrations," Professors Fischman and Hyman describe four broad categories of threats to animal migrations.' These are habitat destruction, overexploitation, human-created obstacles to migration, and climate change. (8) Each of these threats exists because humans have found it advantageous to engage in activities that cause the harm, whether harm was intended or not. (9) Habitat destruction, human-caused obstacles to migration, and anthropogenic climate change all result from a long sequence of private and public decisions taken in response to economic opportunities. Examples include the efforts of public entities to provide transportation improvements, (10) and water and energy services to support economic development. (11) Overexploitation, on the other hand, is more typically the direct outcome of a competitive race to exploit common property resources in the absence of effective institutional arrangements to constrain that race. Addressing these threats will require finding both the will and the way to alter the choices that imperil the vitality of animal migrations. Two types of human choices are relevant: 1) those that are directly focused on migratory animal conservation, including the development of conservation reserves, hunting laws, and land use regulations specifically tailored to protect animals and their migratory corridors; and 2) decisions made for other purposes that entail incidental or unintentional impacts on animals and their habitats. The focus, here, is primarily on the first category of decisions, but the outcome of any given conservation policy clearly depends on a whole suite of choices in both categories, made at different points in time by different parties. This Article focuses not on the behavior and ecology of migratory animals, but rather on the behavior and interactions of humans whose individual and collective actions could either assist or impair the survival and abundance of migratory animals in a changing climate.

A central feature of the challenge of maintaining animal migrations is that effective conservation typically requires coordinated actions on the part of a variety of public and private entities. (12) These may include individual resource users or property owners, different government agencies within a single national or state jurisdiction, or the governments of different sovereign nations. No single entity has full control over the set of human actions that determine the fate of migrating animals and long-term protection of their migratory corridors. …