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Reconciliation ecology: The fun way to adapt to climate change

A University of Arizona ecologist plans to involve Tucson neighborhoods in a giant test of reconciliation ecology.

Reconciliation ecology designs ways for the natural world to exist in harmony with people, while also actively protecting native biodiversity.

"The threat to biodiversity is much, much, much worse than most people understand," said Michael Rosenzweig, director of UA's Tumamoc: People & Habitats and of its Alliance for Reconciliation Ecology. "No species is safe from extinction."

His research shows that without intervention, the number of species the planet can support in the long term has declined more than 90 percent in the last century.

Global warming is almost certainly accelerating the extinction process, said Rosenzweig, who is also a UA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

"The good news is that by paying attention to the land we do use, we can avert the extinction catastrophe," he said. "That's reconciliation ecology -- when you use the land, pay attention to other species."

Maintaining the diversity of species that now exist requires "lot and lots of good habitat," he said. But he's not talking about setting aside nature preserves.

Cities and suburbs can provide much of the needed habitat, he said. To do so, people must use their yards, their urban parks and the land around establishments such as schools, places of worship and businesses to provide habitat for native species.

To test his ideas, he plans to work with neighborhoods in Tucson to encourage residents to act locally to preserve the plant species native to the area.

Rosenzweig will discuss reconciliation ecology and the plans for his grand experiment at 3:50 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3 in Ballroom BC of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. His talk at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America is titled, "Reconciliation Ecology: The Fun Way to Adapt to Climate

Contact: Jennifer Fitzenberger
University of Arizona

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