The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Does Climate Change Force a Reinvention of Conservation?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Speaker:  Stephen Jackson, Director, Southwest Climate Science Center
Date:  Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Time:  3:00-4:00 pm
Location:  ENR2, S107
ABSTRACT:  Ecological management and conservation practice are embedded in long-held assumptions of ecological stasis, frequently with narrow targets focused on maintaining ecosystems in historical or recent states.  Climate change poses a critical challenge, because it inevitably drives compositional, structural, and functional changes in ecological communities and ecosystems.  Such changes are not new, however.   In fact, from the perspective of the past few millennia, ecological stasis has been the exception, not the rule, with extensive ecological change, over much of the globe, driven by natural climate change and variability.  The long history of ‘natural’ ecological change provides useful perspectives for conservation, opening up a broader range of potential targets and outcomes, and preparing managers to anticipate fundamental, and often rapid, ecological transformation.  Future ecological states may be difficult to predict, given the contingent nature of ecological outcomes; in a given setting, multiple future ecological realizations are plausible because of path-dependent processes (disturbance, mortality, extirpation, recruitment, invasion).  Ecological managers and conservation practitioners will need to be alert to the potential for threshold dynamics, and to multiple, historically contingent futures.  Effective management may require nimbleness, willingness to experiment, and emphasis on desirable outcomes that may differ substantially from current or historical states.