Navigation Links
Putting the dead to work for conservation biology
Date:1/19/2011

Conservation paleobiologistsscientists who use the fossil record to understand the evolutionary and ecological responses of present-day species to changes in their environment are putting the dead to work.

A new review of the research in this emerging field provides examples of how the fossil record can help assess environmental impact, predict which species will be most vulnerable to environmental changes and provide guidelines for restoration.

The literature review by conservation paleobiologists Gregory P. Dietl of the Paleontological Research Institution and Cornell University and Karl W. Flessa of the University of Arizona is published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

"Conservation paleobiologists apply the data and tools of paleontology to solving today's problems in biodiversity conservation," says Dietl, the director of collections at the Paleontological Research Institution.

The primary sources of data are "geohistorical," Dietl says, meaning the fossils, the geochemistry and the sediments of the geologic record.

"A conservation paleobiology perspective has the unique advantage of being able to identify phenomena beyond time scales of direct observation," he says.

Flessa says, "Such data are crucial for documenting the species we have already lost such as the extinct birds of the Hawaiian islands -- and for developing more effective conservation policies in the face of an uncertain future."

Most conservation options are derived from modern-day observations alone, they state, and may not accurately predict the responses of species to the changing climates of the future.

Geohistorical records, the authors wrote, are therefore critical to identifying whereand how-- species survived long-ago periods of climate change

Ancient DNA, for example, has been used to show that the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) was not able to move with shifting climates as its range contracted, eventually becoming extinct in Europe at the end of the Pleistocene. However, the species persisted in regions of northeastern Siberia where the climate was still suitable for arctic foxes.

In another tale from the beyond, fossil evidence suggests that the birds of the Hawaiian Islands suffered large-scale extinction around the time of the arrival of the Polynesians. Studies comparing the ecological characteristics of bird species before and after this extinction reveals a strong bias against larger-bodied and flightless, ground-nesting species.

The pattern suggests that hunting by humans played a role in the extinction of the flightless species. By the 18th century, the time the first Europeans arrived in the islands; most large-bodied birds had already disappeared. European colonization of the islands led to a second wave of extinctions.

Those birds that survived had traits that helped them weather two onslaughts.

"Conservation research too rarely makes use of geohistorical data," says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences, which funds both Dietl's and Flessa's work. "Most such studies focus on short timescales ranging from years to decades. Looking back farthermuch fartherin time may be crucial to comprehending events unfolding today."

In their review, Dietl and Flessa cite a study on the frequency of insect damage to fossil angiosperm leaves in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming dating from before, during and after the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, some 55.8 million years ago).

The PETM, scientists believe, is one of the best deep-time analogs for current global climate change questions because global average temperatures during this time period rose by ~ 9-14F˚ (5-8˚C) in less than 10,000 years.

Results from the insect research suggest that herbivory intensified during the PETM global warming episode.

"This finding provides insights into how the human-induced rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is likely to affect insect-plant interactions in the long run," the authors wrote, "which is difficult to predict from short-term studies that have highly species-specific responses."

Time-averaged information, as is captured in the geologic record, says Lane, allows us to sort out natural changes from those induced by human activities.

The dead can help us even in remote places like the Galapagos Islands.

Scientists have used the fossil pollen and plant record there to shows that at least six non-native or "doubtfully native" species were present before the arrival of humans. This baseline information, says Dietl, "is crucial to a current conservation priority in the Galapagos: the removal of invasive species."

An important role of geohistorical data is to provide access to a wider range of past environmental conditionsalternative worlds of every imaginable circumstance.

The past may lead to better conservation practices that are crucial for life, not death, on Earth.

The dead, it turns out, do tell tales.


'/>"/>

Contact: Maja Anderson
mma86@cornell.edu
607-273-6623
Paleontological Research Institution
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Putting the dead to work
2. Putting a bulls-eye on the flu: Paper details influenzas structure for future drug targeting
3. Putting on the pounds after weight loss? Hit the gym to maintain health gains
4. By putting a ring on it, microparticles can be captured
5. Putting bacterial antibiotic resistance into reverse
6. Thrill-seeking holiday-makers are putting dolphins at risk
7. Thrill-seeking holidaymakers are putting dolphins at risk
8. Americans want Uncle Sams help putting healthy foods on their dinner table
9. Putting limits on vitamin E
10. Putting a green cap on garbage dumps
11. UNHs Fred Short adds seagrass data to major conservation study
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Putting the dead to work for conservation biology
(Date:3/11/2016)... Germany , March 11, 2016 http://www.apimages.com ... - Cross reference: Picture is available at AP Images ( http://www.apimages.com ... from DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee identity ... other biometric innovations, at CeBIT in Hanover ... scanner from DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... , March 10, 2016 ... new market research report "Identity and Access Management Market ... Audit, Compliance, and Governance), by Organization Size, by Deployment, ... 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, The market is estimated to ... 12.78 Billion by 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... 2016 This BCC Research report provides an ... RNA Sequencing (RNA Seq) market for the years 2015, ... and reagents, data analysis, and services. Use ... RNA-Sequencing market such as RNA-Sequencing tools and reagents, RNA-Sequencing ... affecting each segment and forecast their market growth, future ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... ... mobile devices with fingerprint recognition for secure access, voice recognition for hands-free communication, ... ways consumers are interacting with biometrics technology today. But if they asked ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... , ... April 27, 2016 , ... ... is pleased to announce the appointment of John Tilton as Chief Commercial Officer.  ... Director and one of the founding commercial leaders responsible for the commercialization of ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... A compact PET ... Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in existing third-party MRI systems. PET and ... in small animal subjects. Simultaneous PET/MRI imaging offers a solution to many challenges ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... MedDay, a biotechnology company focused on the treatment of ... as Chairman of its Board of Directors. Catherine ... who contributed to the rapid development of the Company since ... her career in strategy consulting and investment banking in ...  She held C-Suite level roles in some of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: