Policy ForumClimate and Conservation

Creating a safe operating space for iconic ecosystems

Science  20 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6228, pp. 1317-1319
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3769

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Summary

Although some ecosystem responses to climate change are gradual, many ecosystems react in highly nonlinear ways. They show little response until a threshold or tipping point is reached where even a small perturbation may trigger collapse into a state from which recovery is difficult (1). Increasing evidence shows that the critical climate level for such collapse may be altered by conditions that can be managed locally. These synergies between local stressors and climate change provide potential opportunities for proactive management. Although their clarity and scale make such local approaches more conducive to action than global greenhouse gas management, crises in iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites illustrate that such stewardship is at risk of failing.