Prof. Guy Midgley
Prof. Guy Midgley
Topic: What Does the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Tell Us About Terrestrial Biodiversity?
Working as a research scientist for the South African National Biodiversity Institute since 1983 Prof. Midgley instigated climate change research includingin Chile, Australia, USA, Germany, France, Bo...
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Number of questions: [2]
Posted on 24/10/2014 11:31:59
The IPCC WG II report was launched this week - what do you think is the most important finding for biodiversity experts to be aware of?
Jaime Webbe (from Canada)
That's a really tough question, because the report is so loaded with new information - four chapters on different aspects of adaptation, for example! Biodiversity-wise we have three excellent chapters on terrestrial and inland water systems, coastal systems and low-lying areas, and ocean systems. The summary points out that some of the strongest evidence for the impacts of climate change comes from natural ecosystems, and that species range shifts attributable to climate change can be observed in all systems. The gloomy prognosis is that rates of climate change much lower than we are observing now have caused significant species extinctions and ecosystem changes in the past millions of years - this valuable finding reinforces the message from the 4th Assessment Report, and stresses how crucial it is to slow emissions as soon as possible to reduce this risk. But a more upbeat angle is that well-functioning ecosystems can be an effective element of adaptation response to climate change by human society. Climate change adaptation therefore gives us an opportunity to raise the profile of ecosystems and biodiversity, and integrate these with adaptation planning processes in strategies called "ecosystem-based adaptation", which is starting to happen in Central and South America, and some parts of Africa.

Posted on 24/10/2014 08:22:53
What are the likely effects of climate change on the fynbos biome, and when?
Ralph Pina (from South Africa)
Great question, thanks for asking it. The Fynbos Biome is an incredibly species-rich corner of the world, situated in the Mediterranean-climate region in south-western South Africa. This Biome is a shrubland that is packed full of plant species with rather small geographic ranges, and is subject to a natural wildfire regime with a return interval of roughly between 5 and 20 years. It is believed that one reason for this very high species richness is the legacy of a relatively stable temperate climate with reliable winter rainfall that has been in place for several million years. Climate models suggest that there is an increasing risk with further global warming that the frontal systems that bring winter rain to this region could be shifted southwards, leading to a reduction in the reliability of this rainfall regime. When this is combined with projected warmer temperatures, simple models of species ranges suggest that the region would face a significantly increasing risk of extinction under such a scenario, by the 2050's and possibly earlier. As always, there are significant uncertainties that could strongly influence such an outcome, and the role of climate change in influencing the fire regime is an important one that needs more work. The region has also long been subject to adverse ecological effects of invasive alien woody plants, and more recently some grasses, and their success and the resulting effects could also interact strongly with climate change.