Questions of importance to the conservation of biological diversity: answers from the past
1Long-term Ecology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
2School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
3Institute of Biodiversity, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
4Department of Biology, University of Bergen, P.O. Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Abstract. Paleoecological records are replete with examples of biotic responses to past climate change and human impact, but how can we use these records in the conservation of current and future biodiversity? A recently published list of (One Hundred Questions of Importance to the Conservation of Global Biological Diversity) (Sutherland et al., 2009) highlights a number of key research questions that need a temporal perspective. Many of these questions are related to the determination of ecological processes in order to assess ecosystem function and services, climate change-integrated conservation strategies, and ecosystem management and restoration. However, it is noticeable that not a single contributor to this list was from the paleo-research community and that extremely few paleo-records are ever used in the development of terrestrial conservation management plans. This lack of dialogue between conservationists and the paleo-community is partially driven by a perception that the data provided by paleoecological records are purely descriptive and not of relevance to the day-to-day management and conservation of biological diversity. This paper illustrates, through a series of case-studies, how long-term ecological records (>50 years) can provide a test of predictions and assumptions of ecological processes that are directly relevant to management strategies necessary to retain biological diversity in a changing climate. This discussion paper includes information on diversity baselines, thresholds, resilience, and restoration of ecological processes.