The March, 2007, issue of the scientific journal, BioScience, has a new article by Daniel B. Botkin and colleagues titled Forecasting Effects of Global Warming on Biodiversity.
The news release from this journal's parent organization, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, writes that "current mathematical models indicate that many species could be at risk from global warming, surprisingly few species became extinct during the past 2.5 million years, a period encompassing several ice ages. They suggest that this 'Quaternary conundrum' arises because the models fail to take adequate account of the mechanisms by which species persist in adverse conditions. Consequently, the researchers believe that current projections of extinction rates are overestimates.' "
There are 19 authors of this paper, from Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Australia, and the United States; these include some of the world's top scientists concerning ecological forecasting and the history, ecology, and genetics of extinction.
See the article at The American Institute of Biological Sciences.
One of the paper's coauthors, Matthew J. Sobel of Case Western Reserve University, said, regarding this paper, that "The simultaneous widespread and justified alarm over global warming and changes in biodiversity has induced both outstanding scientific research and deplorable pseudoscientific work,"
According to a news release from Case Western Reserve, "Sobel raises concerns about the `blurring' of scientific fact with public advocacy and wants public discussions to center around sound environmental facts. `Where the science has limitations that should be noted, too,' added Sobel. His concern is that misinformation or poorly constructed forecasts may divert and reduce resources that could be better spent in other areas. Limits of scientific knowledge exist with current forecasting models, according to Sobel, and these need to be acknowledged when reporting global warming."
Matthew Sobel is the William E. Umstattd Professor at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.
We still must be concerned about global warming and threats to the diversity of life on the Earth. There is not just one threat from human activities to the diversity of life; there are several major ones, including disruption of habitats, introduction of non-native species into new habitats, and many effects of technology. The good news is that species appear more resilient to rapid climate change than thought previously. The implication is that sound planning and policies to deal with biological diversity needs to include the multiple causes. The new article also calls for better methods of forecasting --- better computer models --- and better use of available data about past extinctions.
In the BioScience article, the researchers call for eight steps to better forecasting:
* Select one of the many meanings associated with the complex concept of biodiversity and target that meaning as the parameters in a specific forecast
* Evaluate and validate forecasting methods before applying them to general forecasts
* Consider the various factors that might impact biodiversity from climate change to pressures from humans on the native habitat of a species
* Obtain adequate information before making predictions about future outcomes
* Examine fossil records to aid in understanding how some plant and animal species have adapted to changes in their environments
* Improve four widely used techniques in forecasting that model individuals, groups,
integration of species and environmental factors and lastly groups or species based on theories
* Embed ecological principles in the forecasts based on air, water and animal and plant life.
* Develop better models that improve upon modeling forecasts called species-area curves that are based on specific number of species in relation to their habitat and how climate changes can modify the environment.