Studies of climate change and its predicted biological implications will be of practical use only if they can be utilized to inform present-day policy. As noted at the beginning of this essay, immediate implementation of measures to minimize present and ongoing human impacts on the climate is essential—but is politically fraught. Moreover, even under the most optimistic scenario of a worldwide, concerted effort to limit emissions and pursue alternate energy sources, temperature increases over the next several decades seem to be essentially inevitable. A growing literature addresses how what humans know about the biological implications of climate change can inform management policy for many species.
Like many of the other works discussed here, Ecological Consequences of Climate Change: Mechanisms, Conservation, and Management, edited by Erik Alan Beever and Jerrold L. Belant, begins with a set of case studies that document how individual species and ecosystems have been impacted by changes to date in annual precipitation and by increases in climate variability. However, they go beyond this case study approach to describe strategies for maximizing the utility of protected areas in mitigating climate change, emphasizing, for example, the value of well-managed forests as sinks for excessive atmospheric carbon. In Wildlife Conservation in a Changing Climate, editors Jedediah F. Brodie, Eric Post, and Daniel F. Doak note what they describe as an unfortunate focus on documenting the severity of climate change rather than pursuing strategies to mitigate it. Compared to most of the other volumes described here, their book functions as a practical guide for those interested and active in wildlife management, discussing, for example, the value of preserving multiple populations of threatened species to save genetic diversity anticipated to be lost through declines in the number of individuals in isolated populations.