Climate change and ecosystems

Until recently the prevailing paradigm in much of ecological research was one of organisms, communities and ecosystems in ‘balance’ with their environment (“the balance of nature”). There is now, however, general recognition that anthropogenic alterations of the Earth system, and especially of atmospheric composition and the character of the land surface, have led to changes in global and regional climatic conditions, and will continue to do so at least throughout the present century. This recognition has stimulated new awareness of the need to understand how the ecosystems responds to, or interacts with, changes in the climate system, as well as a wider awareness of the ‘natural’ variability of climate at all time scales.

The need for such new understanding of the interactions between the ecosystems and the climate system is rendered more urgent by global commitments to conserve biodiversity and to limit climatic change to levels that will not cause damage to ecosystems. There are many identifiable hazards and risks associated with the interactions between ecological systems and the changing climate.  The risk that ecosystem services, such as the stabilisation and provision of freshwater (including from the glacier masses),land surfaces clean and breathable air, and uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, organic matter dynamics,, may be negatively affected also is now recognised. Furthermore, whilst the developed world is responsible for much of the problem, the developing world and indigenous people worldwide are expected to suffer more severe impacts. The developing world often lacks the resources to address the consequences of climatic change.

The CLIMATE CHANGE AND ECOSYSTEMS Group, however, offers new potential to explore more explicitly the risks and hazards arising from the interactions between ecological systems and the changing climate. It also offers opportunities to link our relevant strengths in the natural sciences with those complementary strengths in the social sciences. 

Focus Areas

Climate change; Glaciers and water resources monitoring; Carbon Sequestration; Biodiversity and conservation