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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 61

PAST AND FUTURE RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES: The Spatial and Evolutionary Response of Terrestrial Biota
by Processor B. Huntley and Dr. J.R.M. Allen, University, Durham (U.K.), Professor W. Cramer, PIK, Potsdam (Germany). Professor A.V. Morgan, University, Waterloo (Canada), and Professor HJ.C. Prentice, University, Lund (Sweden).

This workshop, held at Crieff, Scotland in June 1995, brought together a diverse group of scientists and as a result the papers in this volume (NATO ASI SERIES I47) deal with a wide range of topics. The principal aim was to assess the relative importance of spatial and evolutionary mechanisms in the response of terrestrial biota to changes in their environment both in the past and in the future.

The scene is set in the first section "Past environmental changes - the late-Quaternary" which provides a general background to the nature of climatic changes characterising the late Quaternary and of predicted future changes, followed by a discussion of recent advances in modelling palaeoclimates using atmospheric general circulation models and focussing on feedback between the biosphere and climate.

The next two sections "Spatial responses to past changes" and "Mechanisms enabling a spatial response" present evidence from studies of fossil remains of terrestrial organisms showing that both plant and animal taxa have in general migrated in response to Quaternary environmental changes and address the evidence that can be obtained from contemporary studies that may shed light upon the mechanisms whereby taxa attain the migrations documented by the fossil record.

"Evolutionary responses to past changes" and "Mechanisms enabling an evolutionary response" form the next two sections and consider different aspects of the morphological evolution seen especially amongst vertebrates during the late Quaternary. They deal also with various aspects of the mechanisms that might permit a taxon to adapt to a changing environment. Both genetic mechanisms and phenotypic plasticity are examained.

"Predicted future environmental changes". This section considers both the nature and magnitude of forecast global environmental changes and the potential impacts of these changes on a series of different scales and levels of abstraction. Most of the results presented arise from the application of models of the environmental response of different components or functions of the biosphere.

The final chapter of this volume "Predicting the response of terrestrial biota to future environmental changes" examines three key questions raised - The past as the key to the future? Can past rates of change be established? What role will evolution play? Three other topics are discussed under the headings "Co- evolution vs. individualism - consequences for community assembly; Rapid global environmental changes and extinctions; and, Conserving biodiversity in the face of rapid global environmental change".

The unanimous conclusion of the workshop was that forecast global environmental changes pose a severe threat to the integrity of global ecosystems and to the survival of at least some species. The papers presented provide some of the evidence upon which this conclusion is based. It is the hope of all who participated in this workshop that policy makers worldwide will heed the warnings of scientists before severe damage is caused to the biosphere.
Reference books: I6, I23, I30, I41, I47

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