Should we relocate species threatened by climate change?
A group of scientists has suggested that species threatened with extinction by climate change should be moved to other parts of the world where they could survive.
A group of scientists has suggested that species threatened with extinction by climate change should be moved to other parts of the world where they could survive.Skip to next paragraph
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Writing in Friday's edition of the journal Science, an international team of conservation scientists from Australia, Britain, and the United States argued that species may not be able to relocate themselves before climate change destroys their habitat.
The authors suggest that "assisted migration" may be necessary for the survival of these species.
"When I first brought up this idea some 10 years ago in conservation meetings, most people were horrified," said University of Texas at Austin Prof. Camille Parmesan, one of the paper's authors, in a UT press release. "But now, as the reality of global warming sinks in, and species are already becoming endangered and even going extinct because of climate change, I'm seeing a new willingness in the conservation community to at least talk about the possibility of helping out species by moving them around."
For many conservationists, this proposal flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Humanity's record of introducing nonnative species into ecosystems – intentionally and otherwise – has not been good. Some transplanted species do not survive; many others survive too well, driving out native plants and animals.
Scientific American quotes Matt Lewis, a spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund: "We do not, under most conceivable scenarios, support or encourage introduction of species to habitats outside of their historical range," he said. "It is rare to find an example of such an introduction that hasn't led to dire consequences for one or more indigenous species in the area of introduction, and it is naive to think that such consequences would not also be a factor under the framework the authors propose."