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Human adaptation to biodiversity change

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This forum introduces the newly emerging theme of ‘Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change’, with the purpose of further developing the theme and demonstrating its significance for both science and policy-making. It follows on an ESPA funded research project of the same name.

Biodiversity change has a multitude of interacting drivers, including climate change, that are leading to rapid change in species and in ecosystems to which humans must and are adapting. To date, there has been a failure to consider how biodiversity change and human adaptation are specifically inter-related, although examples of human responses to recent biodiversity change (e.g. species range change, invasive species, new pathogens, changes in phenology, species loss, etc.) are evident in the press, popular media, and some academic research. 

This forum seeks to present and discuss cases stemming from research, policy making, and practice. It discusses the challenges of conceptualizing the relation between biodiversity change and human adaptation, assuming that one fruitful way to approach the topic is by focusing on ‘adaptation from below’, where biodiversity change is largely endogenously driven.

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img 3607 - climate adaptation.

Call for papers - Ambio Special Feature on Human Adaptation to Climate Induced Biodiversity Change

Across the planet, climate change has already led to local extinctions of hundreds of species. Phenology is altering, and many species are rapidly changing range. People must adapt to change in local biodiversity, and the ways they adapt will affect species and ecosystems, as well as human well-being. This Ambio Special Feature introduces the theme ‘Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change’ for the first time, focusing especially on biodiversity change that is driven by climate change, and on conceptualizing adaptation to biodiversity change ‘from below’ – that is, adaptation on the part of the people most directly affected.

The articles in this feature will deal with both conceptual issues related to such adaptation (e.g. with how knowledge, values, and livelihoods are best understood in relation to biodiversity change), as well as case studies that investigate the ways in which people have adapted, or are currently adapting (or mal-adapting), to changes in biodiversity that result, e.g. from the local extinction of a single species (e.g. a cultural keystone species), of a group of species (e.g. native crops or crustaceans), or an entire trophic level (e.g. large fish or predators); to changes in community composition (e.g. as a result of invasive species), major changes in population numbers, or in pest and disease incidence, etc. driven principally by climate change. Also of interest are people’s responses to shifts in locally and regionally important species or varieties (e.g. crops, trees, fish) as their ‘envelopes’ shift geographically, entailing both benefits and harms, and potential new forms of cooperation and conflict.

Questions that might be addressed include:

  • How do people perceive and understand such change?
  • How do people value biological resources and change in these?
  • How do people respond to perceived risks, and what affects their ability to respond?
  • How can such studies contribute to 'climate change adaptation' policy? To biodiversity policy?

Articles are invited from both the developing and developed world, from so-called difficult environments and those that are not, from indigenous peoples living in the tropics or the Artic to 'modern' agriculturalists living in the North. Word limit: 8000 words. Expected publication date: April 2018. Please send manuscripts by May 1st to: