How can we conserve species in the face of anthropogenic climate change?

March 15, 2019


Participants of the meeting

Participants of the meeting

The International Conference on Past Plant Diversity, Climate Change, and Mountain Conservation was aimed to address this question, with a focus on mountain (montane) species. As climate warms, there are several outcomes for montane species. They can migrate upslope, go extinct, or adapt to the warming conditions. Given these options, we got together to discuss our most recent datasets, and the best strategies for the conservation of montane species. Effective conservation strategies are crucial for the survival of many rare and endemic montane species, because climate is indeed warming, regardless of what Trump or Fox News tries to tell people.

The conference was held at the beautiful campus of the University of Cuenca in Ecuador. It included scientists from many disciplines, including climate modeling, palaeoecology, social science, genetics, and conservation biology. We discussed recent data on the future of these montane species, and how to design effective conservation strategies. I was invited to participate and speak at this meeting, and it was an honor!

Fausto Sarmiento organized the meeting, and gave a great presentation on how multiple disciplines MUST come together if we are to be effective in conservation strategies. There were too many speakers (all of them incredible) for me to list individually, though more information can be found here. What was really great was to see the turnout from university students from across Ecuador. They are the ones who know these systems the best (it is their home), and they are the ones who have the real power to make a difference at the level of local and regional government. I hope the data we showed them inspires them to become proactive at saving these vulnerable areas.

I think we need more of these small meetings that involve local organizers, local government officials, and local students if we ever expect to make a real difference. I would like to thank the organizing committee and the sponsors of this meeting, and I hope they keep up this incredible momentum that I think has resulted from this conference!

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