Skip to comments.Scientists Look into Earth's 'Deep Time'
Posted on 08/14/2013 8:16:01 AM PDT by null and void
Climate change alters the way in which species interact with one another a reality that applies not just to today or to the future, but also to the past, according to a paper published by a team of researchers in the journal Science.
"We found that, at all time scales, climate change can alter biotic interactions in very complex ways," said paleoecologist Jessica Blois of the University of California, Merced, the paper's lead author.
"If we don't incorporate this information when we're anticipating future changes, we're missing a big piece of the puzzle."
Blois asked for input from researchers who study "deep time," or the very distant past, as well as those who study the present, to help make predictions about what the future holds for life on Earth as climate shifts.
Co-authors of the paper are Phoebe Zarnetske of Yale University, Matthew Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland, and Seth Finnegan of the University of California, Berkeley.
"Climate change and other human influences are altering Earth's living systems in big ways, such as changes in growing seasons and the spread of invasive species," said Alan Tessier, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which co-funded the research with NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.
"This paper highlights the value of using information about past episodes of rapid change from Earth's history to help predict future changes to our planet's ecosystems."
Scientists are seeing responses in many species, Blois said, including plants that have never been found in certain climates such as palms in Sweden and animals like pikas moving to higher elevations as their habitats grow too warm.
"The worry is that the rate of current and future climate change is more than species can handle," Blois said.
The researchers are studying how species interactions may change between predators and prey, and between plants and pollinators, and how to translate data from the past and present into future models.
"One of the most compelling current questions science can ask is how ecosystems will respond to climate change," said Lisa Boush, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.
"These researchers address this using the fossil record and its rich history," said Boush. "They show that climate change has altered biological interactions in the past, driving extinction, evolution and the distribution of species.
"Their study allows us to better understand how modern-day climate change might influence the future of biological systems and the rate at which that change will occur."
While more research is needed, Blois said, changes can be observed today as well as in the past, although it's harder to gather information from incomplete fossil records.
Looking back, there were big changes at the end of major climate change periods, such as the end of the last Ice Age when large herbivores went extinct.
Without those mega-eaters to keep certain plants at bay, new communities of flora developed, most of which in turn are now gone.
"People used to think climate was the major driver of all these changes," Blois said, "but it's not just climate. It's also extinction of the megafauna, changes in the frequency of natural fires, and expansion of human populations. They're all linked."
People are comfortable with the way things have been, said Blois. "We've known where to plant crops, for example, and where to find water."
Now we need to know how to respond, she said, to changes that are already happening and to those coming in the near future.
At my first house, I had a 106 year old tree.
Why 106? Because when I moved in 6 years ago, they told me that that was a hundred year old tree.
Not possible that climate change affecte anything in the “deep” past. After all, it’s caused by use of fossil fuels, isn’t it?
I say it's 98/02 she's merely projecting here...
You mean to tell me that climate change has occurred IN THE PAST?
You mean that the Earth’s climate was not invariant before the hydrocarbon economy?
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE????
reminds me of the joke where the museum guard was asked how old the bones of a particular dinosaur on exhibit were. He replied, '4 million and 6 years old'.
When asked about the precision of his answer, the guard replied that when he started there 6 years ago, they had told him the bones were 4 million years old.
ping for a later read
I think she’s undeniably accurate. Changes in the climate over vast scales of time are well documented. To imagine such changes had no impact on the plants and animals alive at the time is hard to believe. If an ice age began, the drop in average temperature would shorten the growing season reducing the available food for herbivores thus reducing the available food for carnivores and omnivores. All species would be impacted.
Only an idiot would speak that sentence.
Dr. Who keeps dumping loads of today's atmosphere in the past with that steenking time machine of his!
So much climate change, so little time. It sounds like either desperation by the socialist lefties or grant renewals are coming up.
That is patently untrue. The ignorance of that statement is monumental. In just the last two thousand years man has had to make major adjustments in location and agricultural practices in order to maintain productivity due to climate changes.
My first reaction to the comments I noted, was:
Not now Harry:
I have a headache...
I have to study for that test...
I have to polish my thimble collection...
I have to eat my chips before they get cold...