Colorado State and international scientists say loss in biodiversity by year 2100 could be consequence of global changes

FORT COLLINS--A report today in the journal Science is the first systematic look at how biodiversity is likely to be impacted by several agents of human-caused global change--and global warming and climate change aren't necessarily the principal factors.

In the article, researchers look at what factors affect biodiversity, what kinds of habitats are susceptible to those factors and what may happen to biodiversity between now and 2100. The article's 19 authors, from the United States, Latin America, Europe and Australia, include two Colorado State University faculty members, Diana Wall, director of Colorado State's Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, and N. LeRoy Poff, assistant professor of biology.

Global warming and climate change aren't necessarily the principal factors in the loss of biodiversity anticipated over the next century, Poff said. Nitrogen deposition and particularly land-use change and the introduction of non-native species can play a significant role in some ecosystems.

"For most ecological systems, land-use change is more important than climate change within the next 50-100 years," said Poff, a specialist in freshwater ecosystems. "If climate change were to just go away tomorrow, land-use change will still drive down biodiversity.

"We have to think about ways to reduce land-use change and biotic introductions in order not to exacerbate what happens when climate change is thrown into the mix."

The researchers identified five primary influences, or "drivers," in global change that in turn affect biodiversity: global atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate change, biotic change (the introduction of new species to an ecosystem), nitrogen deposition and land-use change (for example, development and agricultural and forestry practices.) They then identified 10 terrestrial biological communities, called "biomes," and tried to assess how sensitive each was to a particular driver. The biomes included alpine, arctic, borea

Contact: David Weymiller
Colorado State University

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