Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Slight Changes In Climate May Trigger Abrupt Ecosystem Responses

Date:
January 18, 2009
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
Slight changes in climate may trigger major abrupt ecosystem responses that are not easily reversible. Some of these responses, including insect outbreaks, wildfire, and forest dieback, may adversely affect people and ecosystems and their plants and animals.

Forest fire near Bailey, Colorado. A new analysis shows that slight changes in climate may trigger major abrupt ecosystem responses -- including insect outbreaks, wildfire, and forest dieback -- that are not easily reversible.
Credit: iStockphoto/David Parsons

Slight changes in climate may trigger major abrupt ecosystem responses that are not easily reversible.

Related Articles


Some of these responses, including insect outbreaks, wildfire, and forest dieback, may adversely affect people as well as ecosystems and their plants and animals.

The U.S. Geological Survey led a new assessment of the implications of a warming world on "ecological thresholds" in North America. The report, which was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and authored by a team of federal and academic climate scientists, is based on a synthesis of published scientific literature and addresses what research and steps are needed to help mitigate resulting effects.

An ecological threshold is the point at which there is an abrupt change in an ecosystem that produces large, persistent and potentially irreversible changes.

"One of our biggest concerns is that once an ecological threshold is crossed, the ecosystem in question will most likely not return to its previous state," said USGS Associate Director for Biology Susan Haseltine. "The existence of thresholds should be a key concern of scientists and natural resource managers."

The team also emphasized that human actions may increase an ecosystem's potential for crossing ecological thresholds. For example, additional human use of water in a watershed experiencing drought could trigger basic changes in aquatic life that may not be reversible. Researchers and decision makers need to develop the tools necessary to predict the effects of specific ecological disturbances and to understand early warning signals of impending ecological thresholds.

The report also concludes that although not enough is known about ecological thresholds, researchers do already know that ecosystems will differ significantly in their respective thresholds. More vulnerable ecosystems, such as those that already face stressors other than climate change, will almost certainly reach their threshold for abrupt change sooner.

The Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Science Foundation contributed to this report.

To view the full report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.2: Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems, visit http://climatescience.gov.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Slight Changes In Climate May Trigger Abrupt Ecosystem Responses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090116142119.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2009, January 18). Slight Changes In Climate May Trigger Abrupt Ecosystem Responses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090116142119.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Slight Changes In Climate May Trigger Abrupt Ecosystem Responses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090116142119.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) For the second time in two months, a rare weather phenomenon filled the Grand Canyon with thick clouds just below the rim on Wednesday. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 29, 2015) Time lapse video captures a blanket of clouds amassing in the Grand Canyon -- the result of a rare meteorological process called "cloud inversion." Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins