Looking at the Past to Understand the Future

No question, our planet is heating up. So what impact will global climate change have on biodiversity and ecosystems?

This BIG question, as you’ve undoubtedly read here on our blog, is near and dear to many Your Wild Life-affiliated researchers. Over the years, they’ve taken several different approaches to studying the consequences of global climate change on organisms and ecosystems.

One approach is to do experiments. Heat something up and see what happens to say, ants living on the forest floor or tiny plant-sucking insects attached to tree branches in a greenhouse.

Another approach is to do comparative research in a model ecosystem, one with similar habitats that experience different climate conditions. Cities can be great models for studying climate change as they have hot spots (thanks to asphalt and concrete) and cool spots (thanks to parks and tree-lined streets and neighborhoods) that can differ by as much as 12 degrees.

Yet another approach – one recently taken by Elsa Youngsteadt (and published yesterday in a new research paper in Global Change Biology) – is to go back in time, using museum specimens and historical records to understand what happens to species under cool and warm conditions.

Rather than giveaway the punch line here, pop on over to the EcoIPM blog to get the inside scoop from Elsa herself. Find out what she and colleagues learned about global climate change by counting the scale insects preserved on hundreds of red maple branch specimens (photo above), some collected as far back as 1895.

Header photo credit: Elsa Youngsteadt.

By |2016-11-22T13:46:56-05:00August 28th, 2014|

About the Author:

Holly Menninger
As Director of Public Science, Holly coordinates our empire of citizen science projects and manages the online science communication here at Your Wild Life. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice.

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