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Conservation paleobiology: Leveraging knowledge of the past to inform conservation and restoration

May 11, 2015

Humans now play a major role in altering Earth and its biota. Finding ways to ameliorate human impacts on biodiversity and to sustain and restore the ecosystem services on which we depend is a grand scientific and societal challenge. Conservation paleobiology is an emerging discipline that uses geohistorical data to meet these challenges by developing and testing models of how biota respond to environmental stressors. Here we (a) describe how the discipline has already provided insights about biotic responses to key environmental stressors, (b) outline research aimed at disentangling the effects of multiple stressors, (c) provide examples of deliverables for managers and policy makers, and (d) identify methodological advances in geohistorical analysis that will foster the next major breakthroughs in conservation outcomes. We highlight cases for which exclusive reliance on observations of living biota may lead researchers to erroneous conclusions about the nature and magnitude of biotic change, vulnerability, and resilience.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Conservation paleobiology: Leveraging knowledge of the past to inform conservation and restoration
DOI 10.1146/annurev-earth-040610-133349
Authors Gregory P. Dietl, Susan M. Kidwell, Mark Brenner, David A. Burney, Karl W. Flessa, Stephen T. Jackson, Paul L. Koch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Series Number
Index ID 70176907
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Climate Science Center

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