Martin Westgate

Science Advisor
Atlas of Living Australia

Visiting Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
Australian National University

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Climate change, conservation and management: an assessment of the peer-reviewed scientific journal literature.

A Felton, J Fischer, DB Lindenmayer, R Montague-Drake, A Lowe, D Saunders, A Felton, W Steffen, NT Munro, K Youngentob, J Gillen, P Gibbons, JE Bruzgul, I Fazey, SJ Bond, CP Elliott, BCT Macdonald, LL Porfirio, MJ Westgate & M Worthy (2012) Biodiversity and Conservation 10.1007/s10531-009-9652-0

First published 2009-06-12


Recent reviews of the conservation literature indicate that significant biases exist in the published literature regarding the regions, ecosystems and species that have been examined by researchers. Despite the global threat of climatic change, similar biases may be occurring within the sub-discipline of climate-change ecology. Here we hope to foster critical thought and discussion by considering the directions taken by conservation researchers when addressing climate change. To form a quantitative basis for our perspective, we assessed 248 papers from the climate change literature that considered the conservation management of biodiversity and ecosystems. We found that roughly half of the studies considered climate change in isolation from other threatening processes. We also found that the majority of surveyed scientific publications were conducted in the temperate forests of Europe and North America. Regions such as Latin America that are rich in biodiversity but may have low adaptive capacity to climate change were not well represented. We caution that such biases in research effort may be distracting our attention away from vulnerable regions, ecosystems and species. Specifically we suggest that the under-representation of research from regions low in adaptive capacity and rich in biodiversity requires international collaboration by those experienced in climate-change research, with researchers from less wealthy nations who are familiar with local issues, ecosystems and species. Furthermore, we caution that the propensity of ecologists to work in essentially unmodified ecosystems may fundamentally hamper our ability to make useful recommendations in a world that is experiencing significant global change.

Article attributes

Theme: applied_ecology
Type: review