• We study connectivity of tropical rainforest protected areas (PAs) on Borneo.
  • We analyse future changes in the spatial distribution of climate in the PA network.
  • In future, analogue climates will shift out of the majority of PAs.
  • Low-lying PAs may be too isolated to aid species movement to PAs at higher elevation.
  • Management to link forest PAs along elevation gradients is a conservation priority.


Protected areas (PAs) are key for conserving rainforest species, but many PAs are becoming increasingly isolated within agricultural landscapes, which may have detrimental consequences for the forest biota they contain. We examined the vulnerability of PA networks to climate change by examining connectivity of PAs along elevation gradients. We used the PA network on Borneo as a model system, and examined changes in the spatial distribution of climate conditions in future. A large proportion of PAs will not contain analogous climates in future (based on temperature projections for 2061–2080), potentially requiring organisms to move to cooler PAs at higher elevation, if they are to track climate changes. For the highest warming scenario (RCP8.5), few (11–12.5%; 27–30/240) PAs were sufficiently topographically diverse for analogous climate conditions (present-day equivalent or cooler) to remain in situ. For the remaining 87.5–89% (210–213/240) of PAs, which were often situated at low elevation, analogous climate will only be available in higher elevation PAs. However, over half (60–82%) of all PAs on Borneo are too isolated for poor dispersers (<1 km per generation) to reach cooler PAs, because there is a lack of connecting forest habitat. Even under the lowest warming scenario (RCP2.6), analogous climate conditions will disappear from 61% (146/240) of PAs, and a large proportion of these are too isolated for poor dispersers to reach cooler PAs. Our results suggest that low elevation PAs are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and management to improve linkage of PAs along elevation gradients should be a conservation priority.