Thursday, December 24th, 2009
One of the outcomes of climate warming is that species will have to move to remain within climatic zones that match their physiological tolerances. Some common examples include the northward migration of boreal forest species into areas that are currently tundra and the upward migration of mountain species.
As Scott Loarie and colleagues note1 in this week’s Nature (subscription required), we often think of mountain ecosystems as being particularly threatened because alpine species have nowhere to go.
To analyze this challenge, they looked at the spatial gradients of temperature across land masses of the world. These data indicate how temperature changes over a known distance (temperature gradient = degrees C per kilometer).
Then, they used climate model model projections to determine how fast the temperature of a region will change (warming rate = degrees C per year).
By dividing the warming rate by the temperature gradient, they determined what they called the temperature velocity (kilometers per year)—which is basically represents how fast you (or another species) needs to move along the earth’s surface to maintain a constant temperature (check this division for yourself to see how the units cancel).
What did they find?
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
In the latest issue of Ecology and Society (open access), Colin Beier and colleagues provide an interesting case study of the Tongass National Forest (Alaska), examining the social-ecological dynamics of resource systems and why they often fail–in the long term–to deliver either improvements in public welfare or ecological sustainability. It’s important to note that they’re talking about a paradigm typical of 19-20th Century USA (i.e., post-colonial people of European descent in North America).
What I like about this case study is its generality to several kinds of natural resources and the lessons it offers when considering development in the modern world.
You’ll see at the end that they describe a solution similar to the growing Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) movement promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). And you’ll see an example of the changing focus of The Nature Conservancy as they work to promote sustainable development alongside conservation.
Government efforts to stimulate the development of natural resources for public benefit often seek to implement a vision at grand scales that, over time, creates a cycle of dependency that undermines the original social purpose as well as the resource base that was intended to be sustained. In the United States, this has occurred with respect to agriculture, forestry, fisheries, water, and many other types of resource systems. Similar cycles of dependency have emerged through international aid programs to developing nations that were intended to create self-sufficiency through resource development. Although the goals of these programs are often socially admirable and provide an economic stimulus to initiate changes that would otherwise lack the resources to emerge —i.e., to escape from poverty traps —they often result in challenging social traps that can constrain options for future generations. Why have these governance efforts failed so consistently, and what lessons can be learned that would enlighten efforts to address new frontiers of resource governance and public welfare in a rapidly changing world?
What did they find?