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Enabling ecological change amid climate change is key to preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, says study

polar bear

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

As the need to tackle climate change becomes increasingly urgent, so does the concurrent need for proactive management of Earth’s rapidly changing biosphere, according to research published today in the journal Science

“There’s actually a lot we can do to help systems cope with the impending climate change,” said biology professor and author Jonathan Moore of Simon Fraser University, who along with University of Washington professor Daniel Schindler assessed the potential benefits of forward-looking approaches and assessed. † “From restoring connectivity to reducing local stressors to preserving future habitats — all of these proactive approaches can help the ecosystems we rely on to adapt to climate change.”

With that in mind, to allow species and ecosystems to adapt and make them resilient, it’s critical to move beyond conservation-oriented approaches to include those that enable ecological change, Schindler notes. “Local efforts to conserve biodiversity and restore habitat complexity will also help preserve a diversity of future options for species and ecosystems in an unpredictable future.”

While the movement of species to new habitats has been key to the biosphere’s adaptive response to a changing world, climate change is also transforming those ecosystems, leading to the loss of some species and the addition of others.

The authors note that conservation should focus not only on “climate change losers,” but also proactively managing new opportunities and pressures. In the Arctic, warming oceans and shrinking sea ice can increase fish production, but threaten some species, such as polar bears, which rely on the ice to hunt seals. Ice loss in the Arctic Ocean also increases the pressure from industrial activities such as shipping and oil and gas exploration that pose environmental risks. This pressure must be managed in a forward-looking approach to manage the Arctic ecosystem in the future.

The Earth’s biodiversity has undergone a history of change, with genes, species, populations and ecosystems all shifting fluidly with a changing world. “Earth’s systems have an incredible ability to adapt and withstand change,” Moore said. “That has allowed some species to survive for millions of years. But our actions are seriously undermining that adaptability.”

The authors warn that, even with the most aggressive emission reduction strategies, further warming will “continue for decades” before potentially recovering, and strategies to enable adaptation and resilience will be critical to maintaining functioning ecosystems. and for the conservation of biodiversity.

“Efforts to manage and conserve natural resources will need to embrace the dynamic aspects of the biosphere to help maintain functioning ecosystems and protect biodiversity from ongoing climate change,” Moore said.

Schindler says it is important and urgent for humanity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and “the reality is that the world is warming and systems are changing. We often expect that ecosystems will always look the same, or that certain species will always look the same.” are found in the same locations. The biosphere has never been static – and we must embrace management approaches that maintain a dynamic and fluid biosphere. Therefore, conservation and management must be forward-looking – looking to the future and proactive – taking action for the future.”


Scientists advocate climate projections as part of more robust biodiversity conservation


More information:
Jonathan W. Moore et al, Climate Change Ahead for Ecological Adaptation and Resilience, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abo3608

Provided by Simon Fraser University


Quote: Enabling ecological change amid climate change is key to preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, says study (2022, June 23) retrieved June 23, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06- enabling-ecological-climate-key -biodiversity.html

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