June 28, 2007 Humans are changing the Earth at an incredible pace, launching the planet into the biggest mass extinction period since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Sometimes, the magnitude of the problem simply seems overwhelming. However, new ecological research strategies hold almost unlimited potential to provide big picture solutions to these problems.
The key ingredients to these solutions are laid out in a cutting edge article by University of Ottawa researchers, to be published in the newest edition of Science. Developed by uOttawa researchers Jeremy Kerr, Heather Kharouba, and David Currie, these innovations may change the way that many researchers and policy-makers try to solve the problems of global change.
Most global change research works within very confined boundaries; some never leave the lab. Kerr and colleagues describe a new approach – study global biodiversity changes at the same scales in space and through time across which global changes act – and present new work and techniques that will help researchers to predict the future for biodiversity.
For example, biodiversity is now known to respond to climate in predictable ways across large areas – southern Canada has many more species than northern Canada, for example – but predicting how biodiversity will change through time is a much tougher nut to crack. As Kerr and colleagues point out, those predictions become more accurate using the improved macroecological framework they propose. Although the techniques presented in this article apply globally, this work is especially critical for Canada, the U.S., and Europe, where global changes have affected natural environments earliest and relatively severely.
This work was carried out in University of Ottawa’s Department of Biology, where federal and provincial research funds have allowed Kerr, Kharouba, and Currie to establish the Canadian Facility for Ecoinformatics Research.
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