Climate Disruption and Biodiversity

Published

Journal Article (Academic article)

`Global warming' may be a familiar term, but it is seriously misleading. Human actions are causing a massive disruption to the planet's climate that is severe, rapid, very variable over space and time, and highly complex. The biosphere itself is complex and its responses to even simple changes are difficult to predict in detail. One can likely only be certain that many changes will be unexpected and some unfortunate. Even the simple, slow warming of the climate will produce complex consequences to species numbers and distributions because of how species depend on each other. An alternative approach to worrying about details is to concentrate on understanding the most significant ecological changes, ones that are irreversible - so-called `tipping points'. Once such a point has been passed, even if society managed to restore historical climatic conditions, it might not restore the historical ecological patterns. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the loss of species, for we cannot recreate them. Climate disruptions may cause the loss of a large fraction of the planet's biodiversity, even if the only mechanism were to be species ranges moving uphill as temperatures rise.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pimm Stuart, L

Published Date

  • 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 14, Sp. Iss. SI

Start / End Page

  • R595 - R601

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0960-9822