ECCO (Effects of Climate Change on Organisms)
University of Maine
Brian McGill, School of Biology & Ecology, SSI
- Frank Drummond, School of Biology & Ecology
- Malcolm Hunter, Wildlife Ecology
- Shaleen Jain, Civil Engineering
- Brian Olsen, School of Biology & Ecology
- Laura Lindenfeld, Dept. of Communication & Journalism
- Tim Waring, School of Economics
- Bridie McGreavy, SSI Graduate Assistant, Dept. of Communication & Journalism
Species live in a limited area, often only a small fraction of the continent on which they are found, known as their geographic range. To oversimplify, the flora and fauna found at a particular location are then just the set of species whose geographic range overlaps that location. Thus geographic ranges play a strong role in determining our place-based sense of the natural world.
Based on previous shifts in geographic ranges in response to climate change, we can anticipate major future shifts under global warming. For example, the average North American mammal range moved ~1300 km in response to the ~7C warming that occurred from roughly 20,000 until 10,000 years ago (Lyons 2003); similar responses were also observed for plants (Davis 1983; Williams et al. 2004). A simple linear extrapolation to the approximately 3.5C warming expected over the next 100 years, would suggest that mammals’ ranges could move an average of 1300/2=650 km just in the next 100 years. This has enormous consequences for managers of parks and lands that are often only a few 10’s of km on a side and for management of endangered species.
Similarly, over the next 100 years, crops are expected to show large movements, with the wheat-belt moving entirely into Canada (Ortiz et al. 2008)(Figure 1) and the optimal wine growing region now found in California moving to New England (White et al.006). Collectively, these issues have given a new societal importance to the basic science question of what determines species ranges.
Social-economic responses to climate change range from mitigation (attempting to reduce the amount of climate change) to adaptation (managing systems to minimize the impact of climate change). Increasingly the focus has turned to adaptation as it has become clear that international efforts to reduce CO2 output have not produced major results.
A variety of groups and institutions are increasingly beginning to address the challenges climate change presents to their institutions and responsibilities. Most federal agencies are mandated to develop action plans in response to climate change. Specifically, park managers and land managers are actively engaged in planning for climate change (Spittlehouse & Stewart 2003). Tourism officials are also exploring the impacts on their industry (Elsasser & Bürki 2002; Hall & Higham 2005). Agriculture is also likely to be profoundly impacted (Adams 1989; Rosenzweig & Parry 1994). Locally, many signature species in Maine are likely to be affected (Eubanks II ; Westing 1966; Ball et al. 1999) in part because Maine is a transition zone from deciduous to boreal forest and thus many species are at either the southern or northern edges of their ranges.