As climate change causes animal species to make big geographic moves, deciding what is and isn't "native" could get tricky—especially when it comes to conservation funding.
Climate change is driving a parade of species to find new homes (including Homo sapiens). But how deep will the public dig to aid and conserve recent (and future) animal refugees? In Denmark, not very. A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE reports that country’s citizens are willing to pay far more in taxes to protect native birds than incoming ones—even when the natives themselves have one bony foot out the door.
For many scientists, traditional conservationist terms like “native” and “immigrant” are overly static and do little to account for how animal species naturally adapt to environmental change. But such labels underpin much of European conservation policy, which relies heavily on public funding for support. So in situations where native birds end up flying the coop, prior investments in those species might very well be money misspent.
According to the study, there was one exception to the native preference: If a species of bird immigrating to Denmark was under serious population pressure elsewhere in Europe, people were willing to shell out an equal amount for them as for their threatened nationals. At last, a glimmer of European unity.