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Keywords:

  • Indirect impacts;
  • adaptation;
  • mitigation;
  • climate change;
  • biodiversity;
  • second-order impacts

Abstract

Climate change poses profound, direct, and well-documented threats to biodiversity. A significant fraction of Earth's species is at risk of extinction due to changing precipitation and temperature regimes, rising and acidifying oceans, and other factors. There is also growing awareness of the diversity and magnitude of responses, both proactive and reactive, that people will undertake as lives and livelihoods are affected by climate change. Yet to date few studies have examined the relationship between these two powerful forces. The natural systems upon which people depend, already under direct assault from climate change, are further threatened by how we respond to climate change. Human history and recent studies suggest that our actions to cope with climate change (adaptation) or lessen its rate and magnitude (mitigation) could have impacts that match—and even exceed—the direct effects of climate change on ecosystems. If we are to successfully conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services in a warming world, considerable effort is needed to predict and reduce the indirect risks created by climate change.