Observed impact of climate change from genes to biomes to people

Published today in Science, in collaboration with a large international team, we illustrate the evidence of observed impacts of climate change across genes, species, and ecosystems. Importantly, in this comprehensive overview, we discuss how these impacts have direct consequences for people.

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Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems. We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems.  In fact, more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change. Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean. Many of the impacts on species and ecosystems affect people, with consequences ranging from increased pests and disease outbreaks, unpredictable changes in fisheries, and decreasing agriculture yields. Many of the responses we are observing today in nature can help us determine how to fix the mounting issues that people face under changing climate conditions.  For example, by understanding the role of nature in buffering the negative impacts of climate change along with its adaptive capacity, we can use this knowledge to minimize the risks of catastrophic climate events such as floods and fire and adapt our forestry and agricultural practices to ensure food and resource security.

Following the US election results, it is crucial that the conservation community advocates for their science and pushes politicians and governments to follow the science on climate change.

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