Climate change will present new challenges to achieving ecosystem conservation and sound management of natural resources. Thanks to climate change, some species will increase, others will decrease, and the productivity of ecosystems will shift in ways that are difficult to anticipate. (A recent paper about how profound these changes might be, and how unprecedented, can be found here.) When species that we do not like (or are harmful to us and other species) increase, or when species that we use or appreciate decrease, we might want to take action. We might want to counteract those changes if we can. We call this climate change adaptation.

In this post, I discuss whether or not the discipline of conservation biology is up to the challenge of climate change adaptation using the tools that it already has. In other words, can conservation as we know it--the conservation tool kit that we already have--successfully combat the effects of climate change? I'll summarize the argument for both sides, but I think that the "no's" have it, at least for now.

March in the Midwest and East US was very warm, usually so. Chicago experienced 8 days over 80 degrees, when there is usually only one day over 80 degrees in April. Unofficial reports suggested that spring flowers and leaf flush come to Chicago 5-6 weeks ahead of normal. April turned cooler but peonies in Indiana and Michigan are still blooming two weeks before Memorial Day. The peony is a patron flower of Memorial Day here in the Midwest. As the climate changes further, we might need to find a new flower for honoring the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day.  

LiveScience, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, is running a really interesting series that profiles scientists, what they do and why, and how they got to their position today. You can find all of the ScienceLives entries here. I think that Sally OttoMarla Spivak, Naomi Oreskes are interesting entries--all are women who question the status quo and are great role models for girls. The following is my ScienceLives story (May 2012).


A study by Caroline Williams and Brent Sinclair of the University of Western Ontario, together with the Hellmann lab, was just published in PLoS One. The paper reports our findings that winter warming negatively affects overwintering butterflies by increasing their metabolism during the months when they are supposed to be resting. Interestingly, we found that some populations of the Propertius duskywing butterfly were better able than others to tune down their metabolism under warmer conditions, partially compensating for the energy drain of warmer conditions.

Wes Jackson, a visionary and pioneer in sustainable agriculture, will be speaking on campus at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28, in Jordan 101.
“What is most exciting about Dr. Jackson work is how it benefits both people and nature,” said Jessica Hellmann, Associate Professor of Biology at Notre Dame. “Dr. Jackson’s work reminds us how central agriculture is to sustainability—we have to find ways to feed the world without degrading the land for our kids and grandkids.”