Responding to climate change

Our new journal Climate Change Responses launches today, and to mark the occasion, we’ve asked co-Editor-in-Chief Frank Seebacher to tell us all about it.

Frank Seebacher
Frank Seebacher, co-Editor-in-Chief of Climate Change Responses

What exactly will Climate Change Responses cover and why is it important to have a journal in this field?

Changing climate affects species and ecosystems at all levels of organization, from molecular interactions within cells, to global patterns of species distributions. This recent video by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provides some graphic examples of how climate change and interactions with humans affects wildlife in many parts of the world.

As research progresses, our understanding of climate change is shifting all the time, both with respect to climate dynamics and their consequences for the natural environment, and thereby human societies. And the issue is becoming increasingly urgent  if we want to maintain a semblance of ecosystems as we know them.

A lot of excellent research over the past 20 to 30 years has documented the effects of climate change on the ecology and physiology of individuals. The next big challenge is to understand how responses of individuals affect interactions between species and communities. This is a vast research field, and Climate Change Responses focuses on publishing research in that particular area.

Animals, including humans, do not exist in isolation. All are dependent on food, shelter, and mates without which species cannot persist. At the same time, physiological functions such as muscle function and metabolism which allow effective movement depend on temperature, oxygen, salinity and other environmental parameters.

These relationships make it crucial to understand how individuals interact with their broader ecological and physical environments. For example, a particular species may be resilient to temperature increases, but if its principal prey species is not then both will decline.

What’s your background and why did you decide to become an Editor-in-Chief?

Since the completion of my PhD on body temperature regulation of crocodiles, I have been interested in how physiological changes within animals can increase their resilience to changing environments.

My research now centers on linking molecular and physiological responses to animal movement and behavior. Over the past few years, it has become clear that these basic biological functions will also determine how well animals can respond to climate change.

The ecological problems posed by climate change therefore became a prime interest for me, and I think that my research can make a contribution to understanding the mechanistic relationship between climate and the broader ecological function of animals; see for example Seebacher and Franklin 2012 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 367, 1607-1614 as well as other papers in this special issue on Conservation Physiology.

When the opportunity came up to become an Editor-in-Chief for Climate Change Responses I was keen to take it up and thereby help provide a forum for new directions in climate change research.

What are you hoping to achieve with the journal and how do you see it developing?

Our intention is to make Climate Change Responses a leading journal for publications and discussion on new directions in climate change research.  At present, we identified these as interactions between organisms and with the environment – there are some excellent papers published on this topic in the first issue.

At the same time, the journal will provide a forum to identify emerging directions in climate change research as our understanding of climate and its effects on biological systems develops.

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