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In the Real World

Research and Conservation Biology

Conservation biology includes many different topics. How organisms respond to climate change is a hot area of research. Once we have an idea of how species respond, we can try to create policies or reserves to protect them. Research in both the science and policy of conservation biology is currently ongoing.

Biological responses to climate change: Biologists have already documented many changes in animal and plant communities related to climate change. Coldwater fish have decreased their abundance and warm water fish have increased in abundance in California waters.

Conservation biologists can predict where species might move as the climate changes. They do this by combining climate models that show temperature and precipitation predictions with species distribution maps (where species live now). They can see where suitable habitat will be in the future for a species or group of species. This helps plan how to protect future habitats.

Conservation strategies: Researchers examine the social and political reasons behind threats to biodiversity. Research on hunting wildlife in Ghana, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Cameroon attempts to understand the impacts on both humans and wildlife, and may eventually help reduce wildlife hunting. Other research in conservation studies how and when animals move across landscapes to better plan land management.

Environmental effects of disasters: After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, radiation was released into the air from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. A month later, scientists sampled kelp off the coast of southern California and found that it had radioactive iodine in it from the nuclear meltdown. Radioactive iodine has a short half-life, and a month later it was gone. However, it is unknown how the radioactive iodine affected fish and other marine organisms in California or Japan. This shows that activity in one part of the globe can affect organisms in other places.

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