Biological Extreme Events: A Research Framework



Efforts designed to understand and predict adaptation responses of organisms and populations to global climate change must make a clear distinction between responses to changes in average conditions (e.g., doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration accompanied by an average increase of 1°–3°C in global air temperature by the end of this century) and responses resulting from increased incidence of extreme events [Loehle and LeBlanc, 1996; Easterling et al., 2000; Garrett et al., 2006]. Such distinction is critical because, unlike changes in average conditions, extremes (e.g., megadroughts, fire, flooding, hurricanes, heat waves, and pest outbreaks) are typically short in duration but challenge organisms and populations considerably further beyond their ability to acclimate than those expected from average trends in climate changes.