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Global change impacts on biodiversity: the view from Canada


Speaker Info:

Jeremy Kerr
Professor, Department of Biology
University of Ottawa


The combined effects of habitat loss and proliferation of introduced species present serious conservation challenges. These aspects of global change have created a black hole for species in Canada and globally, pulling many toward extinction. Human activities have added climate change to this dangerous mix. Recent research improves capacity to predict species impacts of such effects. Species losses can erode the robust provision of economically and ecologically indispensable ecosystem services, like pollination. In the past 25 years, several wild pollinator species have nearly totally collapsed in North America.

Although habitat loss, introduced diseases, and pesticide use have not helped, we present new evidence that climate change alone could explain some bumblebee losses. Massive increases in weather extremes can precipitate species collapses, even among widespread, abundant insect pollinators. These effects, known from the paleoecological record, have not previously been linked to a modern extinction. Further losses of species and ecosystem service degradation are not inevitable. Informed by concerted scientific action and an involved public, elected leaders sometimes take landmark steps to conserve wilderness areas and strengthen legal frameworks protecting species at risk.