September 8, 2016
With global temperatures rising, an international group of 22 top biologists is calling for a coordinated effort to gather important species information that is urgently needed to improve predictions for the impact of climate change on future biodiversity. Current predictions fail to account for important biological factors like species competition and movement that can have a profound influence on whether a plant or animal survives changes to its environment, the scientists say in the September 9 issue of the journal Science. While more sophisticated forecasting models exist, much of the detailed species information that is needed to improve predictions is lacking.
…The 22 top biologists affiliated with the article identify six key types of biological information, including life history, physiology, genetic variation, species interactions, and dispersal, that will significantly improve prediction outcomes for individual species. Obtaining that information will not only help the scientific community better identify the most at-risk populations and ecosystems, the scientists say, it will also allow for a more targeted distribution of resources as global temperatures continue to rise at a record rate.…With more than 8.7 million species worldwide, gathering the necessary biological information to improve predictions is a daunting task. Even a sampling of key species would be beneficial, the authors say, as the more sophisticated models will allow scientists to extrapolate their predictions and apply them to multiple species with similar traits.
The researchers are calling for the launch of a global campaign to be spearheaded by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES. The IPBES operates under the auspices of four United Nations entities and is dedicated to providing scientific information to policymakers worldwide. One thousand scientists from all over the world currently contribute to the work of IPBES on a voluntary basis. The scientists are also encouraging conservation strategies to support biodiversity such as maintaining dispersal corridors, and preserving existing natural habitats and genetic diversity. “Our biggest challenge is pinpointing which species to concentrate on and which regions we need to allocate resources,” says UConn Associate Professor Urban. In an earlier study in Science, Urban predicted that as many as one in six species internationally could be wiped out by climate change. “We are at a triage stage at this point. We have limited resources and patients lined up at the door.”
· M. C. Urban, G. Bocedi, A. P. Hendry, J.- B. Mihoub, G. Peer, A. Singer, J. R. Bridle, L. G. Crozier, L. De Meester, W. Godsoe, A. Gonzalez, J. J. Hellmann, R. D. Holt, A. Huth, K. Johst, C. B. Krug, P. W. Leadley, S. C. F. Palmer, J. H. Pantel, A. Schmitz, P. A. Zollner, J. M. J. Travis. Improving the forecast for biodiversity under climate change. Science, 2016; 353 (6304): aad8466 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad8466
· M. C. Urban. Accelerating extinction risk from climate change. Science, 2015; 348 (6234): 571 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4984