Global Change Biology
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Edited By: Steve Long
Impact Factor: 6.862
ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2011: 1/37 (Biodiversity Conservation); 5/205 (Environmental Sciences); 7/134 (Ecology)
Online ISSN: 1365-2486
Associated Title(s): GCB Bioenergy
An ocean threat worsens another
Much of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activities finds its way into the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it causes a phenomenon known as ocean acidification (OA). Dr. David Roberts and his colleagues have shown that when marine organisms are exposed to OA they are much more sensitive to contaminated sediments than under ambient conditions. This demonstrates that OA may interact with other existing stressors and that marine pollution may have greater biological effects in the future. Interactions between multiple stressors such as OA and pollution should be taken into account when determining how to best manage contaminants from human activities.
Designing ecologically aware cities
Urbanization causes severe environmental degradation, but little is known about how we should design cities to minimize their ecological impact. Here, Dr. Jessica Sushinsky and her team compare the consequences of compact and sprawling urban growth patterns on bird distributions across the subtropical city of Brisbane, Australia. They show that urban growth of any type reduces bird distributions overall, but that compact development substantially slows these reductions at the city scale. Our results suggest that cities built to minimize ecological impact are characterized by high residential density, with large interstitial green spaces and small backyards.
Snow buts about it! Climate change alters Tibetan flowering time
Tsechoe Dorji and his team have found that increases in temperature and snowfall alter flowering timing and number of flowers produced in a common Tibetan flower, K. pygmaea. Increases in temperature significantly delayed the timing of flowering and decreased the number of flowers while increases in snowfall advanced the timing of flowering and increased the number of flowers. Because K. pygmaea is the most abundant plant in the central Tibetan plateau, the results of this study may have important implications for ecosystem functioning and for pastoralists and wildlife in the region.
GCB encourages debate in the scientific community
A recent compilation of forest carbon stocks published in Science suggests that carbon sinks in the atmosphere, the oceans, and global forests, closely match global emissions from all human-related sources (Pan et al. 2011 Science). In a Letter to GCB, Dr. S. Joseph Write argues that there are two compelling reasons to believe the carbon sink estimated for intact tropical forests is too large: an overestimate of forest area and the second is an overlooked source that reports lower carbon uptake by tropical forests.
The beef on livestock and greenhouse gasses
A team of scientists examined management options for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU27 livestock sector with a main focus on the beef and dairy sector- one of the largest GHG contributors. GHG emissions from all aspects of production and consumption of livestock products are covered. A reduction in food waste and consumption of livestock products linked with reduced production, are the most effective GHG-reducing options, and if encouraged, would also deliver environmental and human health benefits.
The life of GCB published scientists: making models more beautiful
Although on-going global changes are currently threatening biodiversity, the ability of humans to predict its effects at smaller scales remains limited. Most models that are currently used are unable to represent vegetation diversity at regional scales. Based on the latest advances in ecology, Isabelle Boulangeat and her coauthors overcome this limitation and improve the “plant functional groups” that are the best representatives of plant biodiversity for regional vegetation modeling. This new approach, together with recent progresses in modeling, paves the way in our ability to more accurately determine the complex and changing impacts of climate change.
Sages of the forest: herbs provide acidification insight
Forest ecosystems have been altered due to atmospheric pollution, and little evidence of ecosystem recovery from acidification has been reported until now. In this study, scientists reconstructed changes in soil pH across the French forest territory over the last 100-year period using herb species as indicators of pH. The herbs reveal a trend during recent decades that shows the stabilization and recovery of soil acidification. Because plant species respond to conditions in the soil below them, monitoring plants could reflect the health of forests and be used in conserving them.
Looking back to prepare for the future of mosses
Bryophytes, non-vascular plants such as moss, directly rely on rainfall to sustain their water needs, making them ideal candidates to investigate the impact of climate change. Species distribution models coupled with climate scenarios for 2080 in a temperate moss suggest that the species will experience a range reduction of 20-31% in the Mediterranean, wherein the bulk of its genetic diversity accumulates. Since, as opposed to the traditional view of spore-producing plants as efficient dispersers, spatial genetic structure analyses point to substantial limitations to dispersal, significant changes are to be expected in the composition of the Mediterranean moss flora during the next decade.
Multi-country effort outlines food security for the future
21 European countries participated in a Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE - JPI ). An integrated research agenda has been designed and is focused on delivering key outputs: i) to sustainably intensify European agriculture to avoid increasing the demand on food production in other (e.g. developing) world regions, ii) to operate agriculture within greenhouse gas, energy, biodiversity and contaminant limits and iii) to build resilience to climatic change in agricultural and food systems. Jean-Francois Soussana and fellow scientists expect that the research undertaken by the JPI will provide the foundation for a European strategy for agriculture, food and bioeconomy that will lead to environmentally sustainable climate smart food systems.
Flying flowers: when butterflies migrate
Elise Zipkin and coauthors explore how climate impacts migrating monarch butterflies. Because migratory species experience multiple climates during their annual cycles, it is difficult to determine what factors affect changes in monarch abundances and life cycles. By building a model that estimates the relative importance of climate at various times during migration, the study is able to pick apart the complex climate factors along monarch migration that impact population. The results emphasize the difficulties in understanding how climatic conditions impact migrating species and highlight the challenges associated with making predictions on how monarchs and other migrating species will do under future climate regimes.
Warming trends a serious threat to polar bear survival
Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher show that climate warming is a direct threat to the long-term survival of polar bears. The loss of sea ice, the primary habitat of polar bears, threatens populations by reducing the bears’ ability to hunt. With increasingly poor access to prey such as seals, polar bears experience longer fasting periods, fewer and smaller cubs, lower survival rates of cubs and older bears, and an overall reduction in health. Warming effects are predicted to impact the more southerly populations first with a large disappearance of polar bears by the mid-century.
Bats may not benefit from LED lights
Artificial lighting is a global threat to biodiversity that can disrupt key animal behaviors such as breeding and foraging. Although LEDs are energy efficient, the ecological impact of the increasing usage LED lights has not yet been assessed. Dr. Emma Stone and her colleagues tested the impact of LED lights on bats and found that LEDs caused a reduction in the activity of two bat species which led to avoidance behavior. Avoidance behavior may lead to reduced fitness and reproduction. New lighting strategies should therefore integrate climate change targets with the cultural, social, and ecological impacts of lighting.
Coastal zones altered by precipitation increases
Climate change models suggest changes in precipitation as a consequence of increased greenhouse gas emissions. A natural increase in precipitation, and consequently river discharge, during the millennium shift was used to investigate its influence on coastal productivity. By using 13 year long time series data, Dr. Johan Wikner and Dr. Agneta Andersson demonstrated a shift from phytoplankton dominance to greater influence by small bacteria and microorganisms. Negative impacts on phytoplankton production seemed to override any positive effect created by the resulting increase of nutrient discharge. The consequence of increased precipitation may be a lower coastal productivity of fish and shellfish.
Understanding the effects of environmental change on heritage sites
It is well known that biological activity has an impact on heritage structures: sometimes the impact is negative (biodeterioration) and sometimes it is positive (bioprotection). However, the effects of environmental change on biodeteriorative and bioprotective processes are poorly understood. In Dr. Heather Viles and Dr. Nick Cutler’s paper, they review the literature on this topic and identify ‘hotspots’ where the effects of environmental change on biodeterioration/bioprotection are likely to be most marked in the future. They also provide a novel synthesis of existing ecological data to outline possible directions for future research. This work has important implications for the conservation and management of heritage sites in a changing environment.
The dirt on species range shifts under climate change “Soiling” species range shift models
Current studies which focus on the predictions of species range shifts over the 21st century consider mainly climate variables. Here, Dr. Romain Bertrand and his coauthors studied the importance of accounting for soil nutritional resources or soil toxicity to predict future plant range shifts throughout the study of Quercus pubescens in metropolitan France. The scientists demonstrated that the combination of climate and soil variables greatly improve predictions under climate change. Predictions based on climate-only variables lead to conclusions that are likely wrong for conservation and management of plants..
Article first published online: 30 MAR 2012
Immigrants and refugees: Birds respond to climate change
Climate change is likely to pose many threats to global biodiversity. Mountain ecosystems may be especially prone to these threats. In addition to extinction of mountaintop species, one impact is likely to be the loss of species in increasingly hot lowlands. When warm-adapted species are not available to recolonise, this may result in biodiversity losses and changes to the way ecosystems function. Using rainforest birds in northeastern Australia, Dr. Alexander Anderson and his colleagues tested the effects of changes to bird biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They found that loss of lowland diversity is likely, but that barriers to movement such as unsuitable habitat will play an important role in determining future diversity of rainforest birds.
Carbon cycling in eroding landscapes
Recent studies have suggested that eroding landscapes can stabilize more carbon than their non-eroding counterparts, reducing emission to the atmosphere. However, large uncertainties remain in regards to carbon storage in soil and many studies are lacking in their inclusion of physical observations. Here, Dr. Sebastian Doetterl and his fellow scientists measured soil carbon stocks and distribution, then merged the results with other combined soil studies. Their results show that carbon stocks in eroding landscapes differ significantly from non-eroding landscapes as does the carbon quality, stability and distribution.
Will climate warming lengthen the growing season in temperate forests?
Dr. Carla A. Gunderson and her team strove to answer this question by growing and artificially warming four species of trees from cool habitats as well as warm-temperate environments in an effort to understand the effect temperature has on their growing season. They found that warming alone extends the growing season at both ends, with buds bursting 6-9 days earlier and fall leaf loss 8-13 days later. These results were comparable to observations in a nearby forest, demonstrating that the likely result of future warming is a longer growing season in forests.
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011
Global model to assist in the reduction of agricultural GHGs
Agriculture is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As such, it is crucial that actions are taken to reduce agricultural impact on GHGs. However, the natural variation in agriculture means it is not possible to establish “one-size-fits-all” policies for emissions reduction. In this article, Dr. Jonathan Hillier and colleagues combine several emission source models related to crop production to explore how certain agricultural GHG reductive practices change with soil and climate. The best practices were mapped globally using standard fertilization rates. The model will help screen and map the best ways farmers, industry and policy makers across the world can reduce GHG emissions.
Article first published online: 21 FEB 2012
Environmental change accelerates forest regrowth
Forest biomass dynamics, which can be thought of as the continual loss and gain of forest matter over time, is becoming recognized as strongly influenced by environmental conditions. Much of the understanding of these dynamics has come from theory based on models, and is therefore limited. To better understand forest biomass dynamics, Dr. Robbie A. Hember and his coauthors investigated historical dynamics through an extensive forest inventory developed by the Province of British Columbia, Canada. Their innovative analysis can be used locally and globally, with the study finding strong evidence of growth enhancement in response to environmental change. The results highlight the value of permanent forest inventories to better understand climate change response,
Article first published online: 17 FEB 2012
How will a decline in snow impact dryland regions?
The impact of warmer temperatures and declining snowpack on water balance in dryland ecosystems is uncertain and important, especially in sagebrush ecosystems of the western U.S. where water is a primary driver of ecological and human activity. Dr. Daniel R. Schlaepfer and his team used simulation experiments to assess how sagebrush ecosystems are influenced by factors including precipitation, temperature, and snow. Their results suggested that sagebrush may decline in areas of increasing water-limitation but may increase in areas of longer snow-free seasons. Additionally, whether it rains or snows may be of less importance than precipitation that falls predominantly during the cold rather than the warm season.
Article first published online: 1 MAR 2012
Helpful information from Australia’s “Big Dry”
Jim Johnson and coauthors were interested in determining the effects that surrounding vegetation had on stream health during extreme climate events such as Australia’s drought deemed “The Big Dry”. Using 20 years of biomonitoring data from Victoria, Australia, the authors discovered that stream condition was consistently better in watersheds that were extensively covered by native plants. Native plant cover reduces the impact that severe drought can have on streams. These results show that vegetation management is useful tool for diminishing the harmful effects of climate extremes on aquatic ecosystems.
Article first published online: 20 JAN 2012
Slow and steady wins the race…to extinction
Human-induced global climate change has already altered species diversity by affecting species distribution. Currently, half of the world’s freshwater turtles and tortoises are considered threatened with extinction and climate change may worsen these declines. Flora Ihlow and her team used existing climate models to determine the effect future climate change may have on tortoises and turtles. Their results show climate change may alter species life habits negatively and significantly reduce populations.
Article first published online: 20 JAN 2012
Novel findings result from wheat study
Altering carbon dioxide and ozone levels will produce trade-offs in the production of wheat: A positive trait may be enhanced while a new negative trait appears. Very little is known about the underlying causes of these responses to ozone and carbon dioxide. Hakan Pleijel and Johann Uddling explore the relationship between wheat yields versus quality of wheat and discover an important and novel effect of CO2 on wheat.
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2011
Amphibians produce their own “antibiotics”
Many amphibians around the world are threatened with extinction by a recently discovered skin fungus. Some of the affected amphibians have an arsenal of self-produced “antibiotics” that are secreted onto the skin that kill the fungus. Once released onto the skin, the compound is active for fifteen minutes but slowly disappears, protecting the skin from injury. Dr. Pask and his colleagues note their results as an important tool for furthering research into protecting the world’s amphibians.
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012
How will climate change effect lumber production in New Zealand?
Miko Kirschbaum and fellow authors modeled changes in Monterey pine wood productivity with climate change for New Zealand. Comparing either constant or increasing carbon dioxide in different scenarios, the authors found that the greatest increase in wood productivity occurs if carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, citing a 37% productivity increase by 2090. Monterey pine modeled under constant carbon dioxide experienced only a slight growth response of 3% through 2090. New Zealand wood production will depend critically on rising carbon dioxide concentrations.
Future productivity of Pinus radiata in New Zealand under expected climatic changes. Miko U . Kirschbaum, Michael S. Watt, Andrew Tait, Anne-Gaelle E. Ausseil
African Vertebrates help determine global change impacts.
Africa is predicted to be highly vulnerable to future climate change, but determining how biodiversity will be impacted is filled with uncertainties. These uncertainties lead to varying results among biodiversity projections. Raquel Garcia and authors were interested in sub-Saharan Afria and how they may address and summarize the variable impact projections on vertebrates. Their approach may prove to be increasingly useful in ecological modeling studies.
Exploring consensus in 21st century projections of climatically suitable areas for African vertebrates Raquel A. Garcia, Neil D. Burgess, Mar Cabeza, Carsten Rahbek, Miguel B. Araújo
Scottish potato yields on the rise since 1960b>
Peter Gregory and Bruce Marshall used data from 5 weather stations across Scotland along with physiologically-based crop models to determine what effect climate change may have had on Scotland’s potato yields. The authors conclude that with conservative calculation, increased air and soil temperatures have contributed up to 23-26% of the increased yield from 1960-2006. Annual precipitation and the timing of yearly frosts have not changed, leading Gregory and Marshall to attribute increased yields to a rise in temperature
Attribution of climate change: a methodology to estimate the potential contribution to increases in potato yield in Scotland since 1960 P J Gregory, B Marshall
Interactions between climate and habitat loss provide insight to effects on biodiversity
Mantyka-Pringle and authors conducted a comprehensive review of over 1000 papers on habitat loss and fragmentation from the past 20 years. The goal was to determine the interacting effects between current climate, climatic change and habitat loss on biological populations. The authors found that the most important determining factor of habitat loss and fragmentation effects is current maximum temperature. The study is the first of its kind and will help to identify appropriate actions for conservation in the present as well as future.
Interactions between climate and habitat loss effects on biodiversity: a systematic review and meta-analysis Chrystal S. Mantyka-pringle, Tara G. Martin, Jonathan R. Rhodes
Phosphorus limitation offsets Earth’s balance
Human-induced carbon and nitrogen fertilization are generating a strong imbalance with phosphorus. This imbalance places increasing importance in the role of phosphorus availability in the Earth’s life system, affecting ecosystem carbon storage and the structure, function and evolution of the Earth’s ecosystems. Read the letter addressing this issue by Peñuelas and colleagues.
The human induced imbalance between C, N and P in Earth's life-system. Josep Peñuelas, Jordi Sardans, Albert Rivas-Ubach and Ivan A. Janssens
Offspring acclimated from adult exposure
It is known that CO2-driven ocean acidification affects marine organisms, but not whether adult exposure can influence the response of their larvae. New research by Parker and colleagues suggests that there are carry-over effects from adults exposed to elevated CO2 which may help to compensate or reduce the negative effects of exposure.
Adult exposure influences offspring response to ocean acidification in oysters, Laura M. Parker, Pauline M. Ross, Wayne A. O'Connor, Larissa Borysko, David A. Raftos, Hans-Otto Pörtner
Response of Antarctic ecosystems to climate change
For the first time, 14C signal was traced along intact, living moss shoots. The radiocarbon signals were used to generate detailed growth rate data of the dominant Antarctic moss flora over a period of several decades. This data shows that even the biota of continental Antarctica has displayed striking responses to recent climate change.
Radiocarbon bomb spike reveals biological effects of Antarctic climate change. Laurence J. Clarke, Sharon A. Robinson, Quan Hua, David J. Ayre and David Fink