Assessment and planning for emerging impacts of climate change on species

Date: 16, Nov, 2018
Author(s):   Sean Leo Maxwell
Publisher: The University of Queensland

PhD Thesis

Life on Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction event and humans are to blame. If left unchecked, global species loss will compromise the delivery of valuable ecosystem services and reduce human well-being, making it one of humanity’s most compelling challenges.

A growing cause of global species loss is anthropogenic climate change. Efforts to assess and plan for climate change impacts on species have largely ignored impacts from more frequent and intense extreme weather events (i.e. ‘discrete’ impacts) and impacts that arise from humans responding to climate change (i.e. ‘indirect’ impacts). Climate change is likely to become a dominant driver of global species loss unless conservation assessment and planning efforts account for the full suite of climate change impacts, including discrete and indirect impacts.

Overall, this thesis explores how emerging climate-related threats to species – extreme weather events and human responses to climate change – can be assessed, and evaluates how site-based management actions can help species adapt to the full suite of climate change impacts. Persistent knowledge gaps that constrain our ability to assess and manage climate-related threats to species include having up-to-date information on land use dynamics in agricultural systems and better predictions of how species will respond to dynamic threats. Future research that addresses these needs will benefit global efforts to solve the biodiversity crisis.