Our planet is undergoing human-induced transformation. How do we navigate the challenges to protect ecosystems?

Biodiversity makes Earth habitable and a wonderful place to live. But human activities are causing shifts in our climate, environment, and biodiversity that are transforming the planet and pushing its ecosystems into uncharted territory.



A new special issue of Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B delves into how we can navigate the challenges posed by the human-induced transformation of Earth. The issue was put together by an international team of ecologists, including SAEF Theme 2 Lead and Chief Investigator, Professor Melodie McGeoch

Across four key areas, the issue explores these challenges to ecosystems and a range of actions that we can implement to work towards a more sustainable future. The ideas are as relevant to the Antarctic, as they are globally.  

Theme 1: Investigates the functioning and stewardship of novel ecosystems that are emerging due to climate change, invasive species, extinctions, and environmental degradation. Novel ecosystems are poorly understood and challenging to predict and manage. The authors highlight theory-based approaches that may be useful for forecasting the nature and consequences of global change. 

Theme 2: Focuses on how to better forecast ecological shifts in the Anthropocene. In particular, it highlights our need to extend our forecasts beyond 2100 given the irreversible changes set in motion already. 

Theme 3: Argues that we need new and more sophisticated methods to study ecosystem dynamics. The authors identify the need for rapid advances in technology, data availability, and modeling approaches that can accurately capture the complexity and variability of biodiversity and ecosystem responses to global changes. 

Theme 4: Spotlights the importance of integrating human perspectives into understanding, forecasting, and managing novel ecosystems. They highlight the need to embrace innovative approaches to ecosystem stewardship (e.g. rewilding, assisted migration, etc) as well as the need to balance ecological needs with social values. The authors highlight the RAD (Resist-Accept-Direct) framework as a nuanced decision-making tool that recognises the need for adaptive approaches that align with social values. 

The issue also includes a new paper led by Professor McGeoch, alongside colleagues including SAEF postdoctoral researcher, Dr David Clarke, which investigates how we can better understand and protect ecosystems with a mix of native and introduced species. With close links to research emerging from SAEF, another paper in the issue proposes how to track the impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity.

Confronting the realities of our changing planet is becoming ever more urgent. This special issue offers researchers and policymakers a range of adaptable and scalable approaches that can help address the challenges posed by global changes and achieve a sustainable future for Earth and its inhabitants. 

Read more

Svenning, J-C., McGeoch, M.A., Normand, S., Ordonez, A. & Riede, F. (2024) Navigating ecological novelty towards planetary stewardship: challenges and opportunities in biodiversity dynamics in a transforming biosphere. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B 379, 1902. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2023.0008