A new study calls for forward-looking conservation given a warming world
A new study published by Jonathan Moore (SFU) and Daniel Schindler (UW) synthesizes forward-looking conservation and management approaches that could help ecosystems cope with climate change.
While species movement into 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 not just focus on “climate change losers” but also on proactive management of emerging opportunities and pressures. In the Arctic, warming oceans and shrinking sea ice may create more fish production but threaten some species like polar bears that rely on the ice for hunting seals. Ice loss in the Arctic Ocean also increases pressures from industrial activities such as shipping traffic and oil and gas exploration that pose environmental risks. These pressures need to be managed in a forward-looking approach to steward the Arctic ecosystem into the future. Similarly, work by the Moore lab has quantified how glacier retreat will create new habitat for salmon in some regions.
The Earth’s biodiversity has a history of change, with genes, species, populations, and ecosystems all shifting fluidly with a changing world. “Earth’s systems have incredible capacity to adapt and be resilient to changes,” says Moore. “That is what has allowed some species to persist for millions of years. But our actions are seriously undermining that adaptive capacity.”
The authors emphasize that it is important and urgent for humanity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The authors caution that even with the most aggressive emission reduction strategies further warming will “persist for decades” before potentially recovering, and strategies to enable adaptation and resilience will be key for maintaining functioning ecosystems and for conserving biodiversity.
“Natural resource management and conservation efforts will need to embrace the dynamic aspects of the biosphere to help maintain functioning ecosystems and protect biodiversity amid ongoing climate change,” says Moore.
As Schindler says, “conservation and management need to be prospective—looking to the future, and proactive—taking action for the future.”
Moore, J.W., D.E. Schindler. 2022. Getting ahead of climate change for ecological adaptation and resilience. Science. [PDF]
As the need to address greenhouse gas emissions becomes increasingly urgent so too does the concurrent need for proactive stewardship of the Earth’s rapidly changing biosphere, according to research published today in the journal Science.
This paper reviewed and assessed the potential benefits of forward-looking conservation approaches.
“There is actually a lot we can do to help systems cope with oncoming climate change,” says Jonathan Moore. “From restoring connectivity to reducing local stressors to conserving future habitats—all of these proactive approaches can help the ecosystems that we rely upon to adapt to climate change.”
Photo Credit: Chris Sergeant