Climate Change Has Dramatic Effects on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Finds Sutton-Grier

A graphic depiction of how climate change and non-climate stressors impact natural resource management

ESSIC Visiting Associate Research Professor Ariana Sutton-Grier has a new paper out in Science of the Total Environment about the impact of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity.


The paper, titled “Climate change effects on biodiversity, ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural resource management in the United States”, draws from the 4th National Climate Assessment, a 2018 congressionally mandated report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.  The authors use these data to summarize the observed and projected changes to ecosystems and biodiversity, explore links to important ecosystem services, and discuss challenges and opportunities for natural resource management.


The team found that species are responding to climate change through changes in morphology, behavior, phenology, and geographic range shifts.  For example, warmer summers have been associated with reduced body size and increased wing length in North American migratory birds.  For ectotherms, cold-blooded animals whose metabolic rates are sensitive to temperature, this can have a different effect.  For the American lobster and the Atlantic cod, recent ocean warming has led to faster growth rates but ultimately smaller body size.


Responses such as these by species and populations — combined with the direct effect of climate change on ecosystems — are resulting in widespread changes in productivity, species interactions, vulnerability to biological invasions, and other emergent properties.  These impacts alter how natural ecosystems interact with society, and require natural resource managers to adopt proactive and flexible adaptation strategies.


Professor Ariana Sutton-Grier is an ecosystem ecologist with expertise in wetland ecology and restoration, biodiversity, biogeochemistry, climate change, ecosystem services, and nature and human health.  The paper is also co-authored by scientists across the United States, from institutions such as the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Adaptation Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Science Centers, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.


Access the paper here: “Climate change effects on biodiversity, ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural resource management in the United States”.