Sonya Auer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Date: 26 April 2013 Time: 07:18 PM ET
Sonya Auer, of the Department of Environmental Conservationat the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, recently won the Elton Prize, from the British Ecological Society for her research and writing.She contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Plants and animals in a given area form an ecological system of interacting species. Impacts on one, or just a few, species can ripple throughout the system and have indirect effects on other species within a larger community.
|red faced warbler|
Many plants and animals are sensitive to shifts in temperature and precipitation and subsequently relocate to more suitable climates or reschedule their seasonal activities.
One of the most challenging tasks facing ecologists today is determining how species are responding to rapid changes in climate, and the consequences. In the high-elevation canyons along the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in central Arizona, I worked with my colleague Thomas Martin of the U.S. Geological Survey to study how more than two decades of changing winter temperatures have hurt spring breeding success for birds. This harm results not just from changing temperature, but stem indirectly from climate impacts on elk, small predators and even the forest the birds inhabit.