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Impacts of Climate Change on Wildlife: Trends, Complexities and Surprises

Wednesday 5 March 2014, 12.00PM

Speaker(s): Professor Camille Parmesan, National Marine Aquarium Chair in Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth


Abstract: We now have clear documentation that wild species are being impacted by anthropogenic climate change.  However, the brunt of previous studies were from terrestrial systems.  Working with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis Marine Climate Impacts group, we found that observed changes in species' distributions in marine systems were greater than for terrestrial species, while shifts in seasonality (timing) were similar.  These results are understandable when compared to changes in temperature isoclines over the past 50 years.  This set of analyses complements those on primarily terrestrial systems to both support previous conclusions on the global nature of impacts of climate change on wild species and strengthen the attribution of those observed changes to anthropogenic climate change.  While these broad trends are very powerful indicators, increasingly detailed studies reveal multiple levels of complexity.   For example, as part of another NCEAS working on Plant Phenology and Climate Change, we found that many species that appear to have no response to general warming (i.e. they are not shifting to earlier spring phenologies in spite of local warming) are, in fact, highly sensitive to changing temperatures but are responding in a more complex manner than simple expectations predict. Further, some species are exhibiting surprising responses that may render them more resistant and resilient to anthropogenic climate change.  Preservation of biodiversity in the face of climate change will require novel forms of management and unconventional measures of ‘success’.  Further, many conservation options bring up ethical issues and question the philosophical foundation of traditional conservation.  Creative conservation solutions are not without risk, but successful conservation in a time of rapid environmental change will be that which recognizes that doing nothing carries risk as well.

Location: Seebohom Rowntree Building ATB/056 & O57

Admission: Open