We've Been Asking the Wrong Questions about Conservation

July 29, 2013

Dr James Watson, director of WCS’s Global Climate Change Program, explains that to understand the impacts of climate change on wildlife, we must first address the ways in which humans are changing their behaviors in response to the warming planet.

In looking at how best to protect wildlife from the growing climate change crisis, conservation scientists usually ignore the single most significant impact on fauna and flora: the changes warming drives in the behaviour of its dominant species – humans – and resultant effects on the living world and natural processes. Those effects are already driving many of the climate-related ecological shifts we are witnessing across the globe.

For example, the opening up of the Arctic for oil and gas, mining and transport routes as sea-ice retreats directly impacts polar biodiversity. Expansion of agricultural activities due to changing rainfall in the mountains of Africa's Albertine Rift and the valleys of the Congo Basin now threatens gorilla habitat there.

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