Climate change as a main driver of ecological research.

Published online
20 Jun 2012
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Pettorelli, N.
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Climate change is a major threat to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being. Mitigating its effects on living organisms and societies will be at the heart of most environmental management strategies, which will need to be informed by integrative scientific approaches. This Issue's Special Profile provides examples of such approaches. Responses of species to change in climatic conditions will range from thriving (i.e. species capable of living under the new set of conditions) to adapting (i.e. species capable of surviving a change in global conditions by changing their ecology and/or distribution) and going extinct. Yet there is a need to identify which species will fall into which categories, as well as a need to understand how to facilitate species' ability to adapt to change. Landscape management will be key to ensuring that functional, resilient ecosystems are maintained. Preserving the complexity and function of ecosystems can help mitigate the impact of extreme climatic conditions on the delivery of vital services such as climate regulation, primary production and water retention. To mitigate further biodiversity loss, healthy habitats will also need to be better connected. In many situations, developing ecological networks will require costly habitat restoration at large spatial scales: to maximise opportunities for these networks to be created and be successful, landscape-scale assessments of the provision and value of multiple ecosystem services under alternative management regimes will need to inform decisions as to where and how to implement their creation. Synthesis and applications. Climate change is only starting to shape the ecological research agenda, as the complexity of the impact of this phenomenon on biodiversity and ecosystem services slowly unveils. Because changes in climatic conditions are expected to hit everyone everywhere, effective solutions for climate change mitigation will require science to truly engage with society and support decision-making processes at local, national and international scales.

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