Comments on Climate Change/Global Warming in a Changing World: From Indicators to Action—An Introduction to the Special Issue on Biological Effects of
PAUL W. SAMMARCO
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), Chauvin, Louisiana
The fields of ecology and evolution vs. environmental science were once separate. This was to differentiate between the processes of natural selection and adaptation occurring in natural environments vs. those in which humans were consciously altering their environment, affecting their adaptation to that environment and thus their own evolution. Today, the fields of ecology, evolution, and environmental science are intimately linked, because all known ecosystems on earth have been affected by human activities. Those effects are now being documented back hundreds to thousands of years. Environmental indicators are used to sense levels of disturbance, primarily anthropogenic, to systems and also to monitor their recovery from such. The issue of whether climate change and global warming is a natural or anthropogenic phenomenon has been debated for decades. Now it is widely accepted as being a human-induced phenomenon linked to our society’s introduction of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, into the atmosphere in an exponential fashion over the past ~150 yrs. CO2 concentrations are known to be significantly correlated with atmospheric temperature over a period of hundreds of thousands of years, and we are currently experiencing the highest CO2 concentrations in the geological record. We have entered a period where action is required to correct our impacts. The papers in this special issue address effects of climate change on: a) hermatypic corals, emphasizing adaptation/exaptation in host corals and the evolution of their endosymbiotic zooxanthellae; b) responses of freshwater fishes to temperature increases, emphasizing variation in temperature tolerance; and c) mussels in coastal waters of the continental United States, emphasizing effects on parasites and other pathological manifestations.
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