Speaker: David Ackerly
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California hosts extraordinary biodiversity, arrayed across gradients of climate, soils, and disturbance history, especially fire. California’s Mediterranean-type climate, with cool-wet winters and hot-dry summers, is distinct from surrounding regions, and supports many endemic species. Within our region, latitude, elevation, and proximity to the ocean set up distinct conditions that influence the distribution of individual species and plant communities. With ongoing climate change, conditions are rapidly changing, and–as we’ve experienced in recent years–these changes are triggering increased drought and wildfire severity. Over long time periods (i.e, millennia) we know that climate change drives shifts in plant distributions. But what will happen in this century? Can plants move fast enough to keep up? And how will this impact conservation strategies? One of the immediate challenges is that a lot of our conservation investments are based on protecting parcels of land in parks and open space. As communities change and species distributions shift, parks may no longer support the biodiversity that they were initially set aside to protect. This lecture will provide an overview of the science behind species distributions, and our projections and evidence of how plants are shifting in response to climate change, followed by a discussion about implications for conservation.
David Ackerly is a climate change biologist and professor in the departments of Integrative Biology and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and Dean of the Rausser College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. Ackerly’s research group studies the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in California, and post-fire forest dynamics in mixed hardwood and oak woodlands. He co-leads the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3). TBC3–a Berkeley-Pepperwood collaboration–has helped develop high resolution projections for future climate in California, across a range of possible scenarios, and the group works with land managers, NGOs, state and federal agencies to consider new approaches to manage vegetation in the face of changing conditions