Climate Change and Animal Populations Workshop

 

This month I participated in a Workshop on the effects of climate change on animal populations, held in the beautiful city of Erice, Sicily. I had the opportunity to spend some days with my PhD supervisor and my collaborators from Japan and Italy. It was a wonderful place to present our first results on the effects of global change on waterbird populations and habitat selection strategies. 

I had also the opportunity to hear talks and speak with world-top animal ecology researchers. I was specially impressed by the lectures of Professors Stan Boutin from Canada, Brian Hutley from the UK, or Raimundo Real from Spain among many others.

Big questions arose, and great discussions took place after each talk. One of the bring-back messages of the workshop was the difficulty to find direct evidence of the effects of climate change on animal populations. Some examples of adaptation of mammals and birds to climate change were shown, and a lot of discussions about how to identify micro-evolution in response to climate change emerged. Researchers are quite skeptical about climate change affecting drastically animal populations around the globe. Habitat alteration is still a major effect, and adaptation is helping to survive to temperature and other variables changes. However, adaptations in many cases should show some limits in the future. Maybe soon. What will happen then? When will this happen? 

I learnt a lot from those discussions about adaptation/micro-evolution, and how difficult is to really show evidence of climate change driving the decrease of animal populations. I missed, however, a little bit of discussion about other animal groups. Birds and mammals are, in some cases, being quite successful to adapt to climate changes until now. But, is this true for other vertebrates? What about amphibians, the most threatened group? Also, how are invertebrates being affected? Acidification and the rising temperature of the sea might be also affecting enormously marine animal populations.  

A lot of research is still needed. The main lesson I learned is to keep fighting against climate change while always be skeptical!

This little guy (black redstart) would wake me up everyday really early during my stay in Erice.