Biodiversity's ills not all down to climate change
This is an excellent interview with valuable insight based on a paper in an upcoming issue of Nature Climate Change. It highlights the complexities involved in attributing biodiversity changes, and ecological in general, to climate change and specific aspects of climate change. This is a difficult task as it is, requiring collection of large quantities of data, and understanding patterns and processes on spatial and temporal scales at the edge of ecological (and evolutionary) resolution. The task is made all the more difficult by the drive to provide "useful" data for policy makers and conservation managers, a theme all too frequently heard these days. But exactly what are useful data? A commonly held piece is the prediction of where a species will supposedly relocate to as climate continues to change. But making that prediction requires far more than identifying a species' current climate requirements, because those are not the sole, and often not the most important factors that determine current distributions. Biotic interactions and their ecological contexts (chemistry, what other species are present, etc.) are usually paramount, and those are far more difficult to quantify and model. Furthermore, in a majority of cases, the foretold negative impacts of global warming are exacerbated by other agents of anthropogenic disturbance, such as habitat destruction, and most biological communities are already in states far from pristine and natural. Therefore, as climate change progresses, and continues to have an impact on species, we should, as recommended by the author, speak in terms of probabilities and likelihoods. It really is unfortunate that policy-makers, and the population in general, are uncomfortable with this. It's simply the way that Nature is.