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Classroom Resources: When Worlds Collide

By Douglas Fox
January-March 2007 (Vol. 8, No. 1)

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Discussion Questions

  1. The article reports that many species have shifted their range in response to a “miniscule” temperature rise of just 0.6 degrees Celsius over the last century. How can a seemingly miniscule amount of change have resulted in major range shifts?
  2. The author argues that biological communities are ephemeral and that Darwin’s assertion that mutual relations between species are not disturbed by climate change was wrong. With whom do you agree? Can you find examples to support Darwin’s expectation that communities are not so easily broken up?
  3. It is stated that human-assisted migration involves a degree of human interference that some people have called ‘hubris’. Hubris usually refers to a kind of excessive pride, or arrogance, which tends to result in tragedy. Do you think this is a fair term to use here?
  4. We generally are concerned about exotic invasive species drastically modifying the habitats they invade and use a variety of methods to eradicate them. Should we treat endangered species that may be moving to a new area in response to climate change as invasives and try to eradicate them or work to conserve them because of their endangered status whether or not they have a detrimental effect on their new environment?
  5. The idea of moving species in an attempt to save them from climate change has generated strong arguments both for and against. Overall, do you support the work of the Torreya Guardians?
  6. Would you envision that Julie Etterson’s suggestion to migrate genes rather than individuals could solve some of the problems with migrating species? Which problems might it solve and what problems might it generate itself?

Websites for Further Information

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Brown, J.H., Valone, T.J. and Curtin, C.G. 1997. Reorganization of an arid ecosystem in response to recent climate change. PNAS 94, 9729-9733.
  • Walther, G.-R., E. Post, et al. 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416, 389-395.
  • Root, T. L., J. T. Price, et al. 2003. Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421, 57-60.

Key Concepts

  • Global warming
  • Climate change
  • Exotic species
  • Translocation
  • Ecosystem migration
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