Paleoecologists offer new insight into how climate change will affect organisms

Nov 04, 2009

An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science written by a team of ecologists, including Robert Booth, assistant professor of earth and environmental science at Lehigh University, examines some of the potential problems with current prediction methods and calls for the use of a range of approaches when predicting the impact of climate change on organisms.

According to Booth and his colleagues, one of the biggest challenges facing ecologists today is trying to predict how change will impact the distribution of organisms in the future. Combining the that allow a particular species to exist with the output from climate models is a commonly used approach to determining where these conditions will exist in the future. However, according to the authors, there some potential problems with the correlational approach that ecologists have traditionally used.

"This traditional prediction approach on its own is insufficient," said Booth. "It needs to be integrated with mechanistic and dynamic ecological modeling and systematic observations of past and present patterns and dynamics."

The paper uses examples from recent paleoecological studies to highlight how climate variability of the past has affected the distributions of tree species, and even how events that occurred many centuries ago still shape present-day distributions patterns. For example, the authors note that some populations of a Western US tree species owe their existence to brief periods of favorable climatic conditions allowing colonization in the past, such as a particularly wet interval during the 14th century.

"The climate system varies at all ecologically relevant time scales," said Booth. "We see differences year to year, decade to decade, century to century and millennia to millennia. When trying to understand how species and populations will respond to changing climate, it's not just changes in the mean climate state that need to be considered, but also changes in variability "

Source: Lehigh University (news : web)

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate change predicted to drive trees northward

Dec 03, 2007

The most extensive and detailed study to date of 130 North American tree species concludes that expected climate change this century could shift their ranges northward by hundreds of kilometers and shrink the ranges by more ...

A new dawn for climate prediction

Jul 18, 2007

Scientists must develop new, more adaptive approaches to predicting and monitoring climate, say climate modellers from the University of Exeter. In a 'perspectives' article published in leading journal Science, Professor Peter ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

Sep 19, 2014

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0