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Review: Ecological Consequences of Recent Climate Change

John P. McCarty
Conservation Biology
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 320-331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2641830
Page Count: 12
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Review: Ecological Consequences of Recent Climate Change
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Abstract

Global climate change is frequently considered a major conservation threat. The Earth's climate has already warmed by 0.5⚬C over the past century, and recent studies show that it is possible to detect the effects of a changing climate on ecological systems. This suggests that global change may be a current and future conservation threat. Changes in recent decades are apparent at all levels of ecological organization: population and life-history changes, shifts in geographic range, changes in species composition of communities, and changes in the structure and functioning of ecosystems. These ecological effects can be linked to recent population declines and to both local and global extinctions of species. Although it is impossible to prove that climate change is the cause of these ecological effects, these findings have important implications for conservation biology. It is no longer safe to assume that all of a species' historic range remains suitable. In drawing attention to the importance of climate change as a current threat to species, these studies emphasize the need for current conservation efforts to consider climate change in both in situ conservation and reintroduction efforts. Additional threats will emerge as climate continues to change, especially as climate interacts with other stressors such as habitat fragmentation. These studies can contribute to preparations for future challenges by providing valuable input to models and direct examples of how species respond to climate change.

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