How can Earth’s ecosystems adapt to climate change? •

A new study published in the journal Science argued that as attempting to mitigate climate change becomes increasingly urgent, so does the simultaneous need for proactive management of Earth’s rapidly changing biosphere. Given that the coming changes will seriously challenge current natural resource management and conservation efforts, new forward-looking conservation approaches to enable climate change adaptation and resilience of a variety of species, communities and ecosystems are absolutely necessary.

“We can actually do a lot to help systems cope with impending climate change,” said study lead author Jonathan Moore, a professor of biology at Simon Fraser University. “From restoring connectivity to reducing local stressors to conserving future habitats – all of these proactive approaches can help the ecosystems we rely on to adapt to climate change.”

According to study co-author Daniel Schindler, an expert in ecosystem dynamics at the University of Washington, for species and ecosystems to adapt and be resilient to climate change, conservation-focused approaches must be complemented by attempts that enable and promote ecological change. .

“Local efforts to conserve biodiversity and regenerate habitat complexity will also help maintain a diversity of future options for species and ecosystems into the unpredictable future,” Professor Schindler explained.

Thus, conservation efforts should focus not only on “climate change losers” but also on proactively managing emerging opportunities. For example, while threatening species such as polar bears, warming Arctic oceans and shrinking sea ice may lead to increased fish production in some regions – a phenomenon that must also be taken into account when planning designing proactive approaches to help ecosystems cope with climate change.

“Earth systems have an incredible ability to adapt and resist change. This is what has allowed some species to persist for millions of years. But our actions are seriously compromising that adaptability,” Prof Moore said. “Natural resource management and conservation efforts will need to incorporate the dynamic aspects of the biosphere to help maintain ecosystem functioning and protect biodiversity in the context of ongoing climate change.”

While it is important and urgent for humanity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to control the rate of climate change, even with the most aggressive mitigation strategies, warming will likely persist for decades. Thus, additional strategies to enable adaptation and resilience will be crucial for maintaining functional ecosystems and conserving biodiversity.

“The biosphere has never been static – and we must adopt management approaches that maintain a dynamic and fluid biosphere. Thus, conservation and management must be forward-looking – forward-looking, and proactive – taking steps for the future,” concluded Professor Schindler.

By Andrei Ionescu, Personal editor