News Release

Managing ecosystems under climate change requires adaptive, translational approaches

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

In a Perspective, Stephen Jackson argues that a static view of ecosystem processes is no longer sufficient to inform conservation and natural resource management approaches. As climate change continues unabated, the management of ecosystems vulnerable to transformation requires novel adaptive and translational approaches. According to Jackson, a science of “transformational ecology” is needed to address related challenges. In the face of our changing climate, landscapes worldwide are changing – temperate forests across the Northern Hemisphere are giving way to shrublands while new forests are beginning to take hold in the Arctic tundra. While these observable changes have received increasing scientific attention, much of it has focused on identifying tipping points between stable ecological states. However, ecological transformation is a highly dynamic and complex process and can occur gradually over a variety of timescales. What’s more, existing cultural, political, historical, and institutional barriers are deeply embedded in conservation practice and resource management, making changes in current approaches particularly difficult. Nonetheless, Jackson shows how adaptive learning, creative approaches and close partnerships between scientists, decisionmakers and stakeholders are needed to address the uncertainties imposed by shifting ecological states. “Ecosystem transformation will characterize the globe for the foreseeable future, and many ecosystems emerging today will be transient, yielding to further transformation as climate change continues and ecological processes at different temporal scales keep pace,” Jackson writes. “Implementing effective, adaptative approaches to understanding and managing those transformations is an urgent challenge for the scientific, management and policy communities.”

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