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Global Change: Will Some Plant Species Be Left Behind? Studies Of EcosystemDynamics Make Wide Use Of Computer Models

Earth's Changing Land GCTE-LUCC Open Science Conference - 14-18 March 1998 - Barcelona, Spain

Will climate change occur at a a higher rate than the speed at which species can establish, grow and reproduce? Eight hundred of the world's leading environmental scientists will address this and other questions at a meeting sponsored by GCTE/LUCC in Barcelona, Spain on March 14-18, 1998.

The Science

  • The concentration of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere has increased significantly since the industrial revolution as a result of human activities, especially fossil fuel burning and deforestation. This has the potential to significantly alter the Earth's climate, expected to be warmer by one to 3.5C in 2100. This would represent a rate of warming much greater than any seen in the last 10,000 years.

  • In response to changes in climate, plant species may migrate to more suitable habitats. While this seems not to have been a major limitation in the past, human-induced climate change calls for migration rates up to 10 times faster than historically observed for many species. One major goal of the scientists? meeting in Barcelona is to predict the dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems facing this unprecedented rate of climate change.

  • One of the most powerful tools at the disposal of researchers is the use of sophisticated computer models that now incorporate information on how species establish, grow and reproduce. Dr. A.M. Solomon (Environmental Protection Agency, USA) and co-workers developed such a model to stimulate the succession of tree species in forests. They found that tree species should be able to migrate fast enough to keep up with climate change in the mountainous terrain of the Pacific Northwest, but not in the gently rolling terrain of midwestern US. This is due to the fact that in mountains the vertical distances between suitable and deteriorating habitats are s
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Contact: Anne Larigauderie
anne.larigauderie@epc.u-psud.fr
+34 3 233 2387
Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems Project (GCTE)
10-Mar-1998


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