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# agcs2 and ecology

Beyond Global Warming: Ecology and Global Change

While ecologists involved in management or policy often are advised to learn to deal with uncertainty, there are a number of components of global environmental change of which we are certain–certain that they are going on, and certain that they are human—caused. Some of these are largely ecological changes, and all have important ecological consequences. Three of the well—documented global changes are: increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; alterations in the biogeochemistry of the global nitrogen cycle; and ongoing land use/land cover change. Human activity–now primarily fossil fuel combustion– has increased carbon dioxide concentrations from °280 to 355 mL/L since 1800; the increase is unique, at least in the past 160 000 yr, and several lines of evidence demonstrate unequivocally that it is human—caused. This increase is likely to have climatic consequences–and certainly it has direct effects on biota in all Earth's terrestrial ecosystems. The global nitrogen cycle has been altered by human activity to such an extent that more nitrogen is fixed annually by humanity (primarily for nitrogen fertilizer, also by legume crops and as a by product of fossil fuel combustion) than by all natural pathways combined. This added nitrogen alters the chemistry of the atmosphere and of aquatic ecosystems, contributes to eutrophiction of the biosphere, and has substantial regional effects on biological diversity in the most affected areas. Finally, human land use/land cover change has transformed one—their to one—half of Earth's ice—free surface. This in and of itself probably represents the most important component of global change now and will for some decades to come; it has profound effects on biological diversity on land and on ecosystems downwind and downstream of affected areas. Overall, any clear dichotomy between pristine ecosystems and human—altered areas that may have existed in the past has vanished, and ecological research should account for this reality. These three and other equally certain components of global environmental change are the primary causes of anticipated changes in climate, and of ongoing losses of biological diversity. They are caused in turn by the extraordinary growth in size and resource use of the human population. On a broad scale, there is little uncertainty about any of these components of change or their causes. However, much of the public believes the causes–even the existence–of global change to be uncertain and contentious topics. By speaking out effectively, we can help to shift the focus of public discussion towards what can and should be done about global environmental change

Note by John Rey Ciupan
3 years, 10 months ago

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