Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A group of biologists have demanded more resources for data collection, so they can fill in the missing pieces of biodiversity models which forecast ecological catastrophe.
Forecasting climate change’s effects on biodiversity hindered by lack of data
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – An international group of biologists is calling for data collection on a global scale to improve forecasts of how climate change affects animals and plants.
Accurate model predictions can greatly aid efforts to protect biodiversity from disturbances such as climate change and urban sprawl by helping scientists and decision-makers better understand, anticipate and respond to threats that imperil species and ecosystems.
In a paper published in Science on Thursday (Sept. 8), biologists cite a critical lack of data on key biological mechanisms – such as how animals and plants spread during their lifetime and how they evolve in response to changes in the environment – as the main obstacle to improving models’ ability to forecast species’ response to climate change.
“This paper is a call to arms,” said Patrick Zollner, article co-author and Purdue associate professor of wildlife science. “The world is in dire circumstances. We’re losing a lot of species, and we’re largely unaware why. How do we need to rethink the kind of data we’re collecting so we can take advantage of modern modeling tools to understand the outcomes of climate change for ecological systems? This could help us forestall losing wildlife that we later deeply regret.”
The abstract of the paper;
New biological models are incorporating the realistic processes underlying biological responses to climate change and other human-caused disturbances. However, these more realistic models require detailed information, which is lacking for most species on Earth. Current monitoring efforts mainly document changes in biodiversity, rather than collecting the mechanistic data needed to predict future changes. We describe and prioritize the biological information needed to inform more realistic projections of species’ responses to climate change. We also highlight how trait-based approaches and adaptive modeling can leverage sparse data to make broader predictions. We outline a global effort to collect the data necessary to better understand, anticipate, and reduce the damaging effects of climate change on biodiversity.
On one hand it is refreshing to see a group of scientists admit their climate projections are incomplete. But it is also sad that said scientists seem to feel compelled to couch a request for more funds in such apocalyptic terms.
Who knows – perhaps this is what you have to do these days, to attract the attention of climate obsessed science funding panels.
Update (EW) – fixed a typo