Northeast CASC “Biological Thresholds” Workshop Experiences Great Turnout

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The Northeast CASC’s “Biological Thresholds in the Context of Climate Change” workshop drew over 160 researchers, resource managers, and partners last October to discuss how resource stewards and conservation practitioners can incorporate knowledge of biological thresholds into decision-making processes.

Small grey songbird with brown head sits among leafless branches before an empty grey sky.

Research from the Northeast CASC reveals that songbirds, such as the brown-headed nuthatch, experience dramatic population and range declines after climate conditions cross certain biological thresholds.​​​​​​​

(Public domain.)

Read the news story from the Northeast CASC here

Plants and animals rely on certain optimal environmental conditions to thrive. Yet, as climate change continues, it becomes increasingly likely that species and ecosystems will reach biological thresholds, or points after which species experience disproportionate negative impacts. For example, amphibians and reptiles will die if temperatures rise above a certain point, and some tree species experience high mortality rates after specific levels of water scarcity. The Northeast CASC held a workshop this past October to explore what is known about biological thresholds and how this knowledge can inform resource management strategies. The workshop was inspired by a previous Northeast CASC project in which researchers used mathematical models to show that many vulnerable species, including songbirds and boreal mammals, experience dramatic declines in range and abundance after crossing climate thresholds. More than 160 people attended the workshop, double the expected turnout, including representatives from 50 state and federal agencies spanning 21 states. Presentations and breakout conversations throughout the workshop helped identify key research needs necessary for helping managers apply knowledge of biological thresholds to decision-making processes. 

“Ultimately, this information-gathering process revealed that while managers are generally concerned about approaching thresholds for a variety of ecosystems and species, they do not currently possess the information required to properly recognize and anticipate these tipping points,” said Anthony D’Amato, an Northeast CASC principal investigator and associate professor at the University of Vermont. “Fortunately, Northeast CASC personnel can assist in filling the existing gaps in our current knowledge.” 

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