Merging paleobiology with conservation biology to guide the future of terrestrial ecosystems

Anthony D. Barnosky, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Patrick Gonzalez, Jason Head, P. David Polly, A. Michelle Lawing, Jussi T. Eronen, David D. Ackerly, Ken Alex, Eric Biber, Jessica Blois, Justin Brashares, Gerardo Ceballos, Edward Davis, Gregory P. Dietl, Rodolfo Dirzo, Holly Doremus, Mikael Fortelius, Harry W. Greene, Jessica HellmannThomas Hickler, Stephen T. Jackson, Melissa Kemp, Paul L. Koch, Claire Kremen, Emily L. Lindsey, Cindy Looy, Charles R. Marshall, Chase Mendenhall, Andreas Mulch, Alexis M. Mychajliw, Carsten Nowak, Uma Ramakrishnan, Jan Schnitzler, Kashish Das Shrestha, Katherine Solari, Lynn Stegner, M. Allison Stegner, Nils Chr Stenseth, Marvalee H. Wake, Zhibin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

220 Scopus citations


Conservation of species and ecosystems is increasingly difficult because anthropogenic impacts are pervasive and accelerating. Under this rapid global change, maximizing conservation success requires a paradigm shift from maintaining ecosystems in idealized past states toward facilitating their adaptive and functional capacities, even as species ebb and flow individually. Developing effective strategies under this new paradigm will require deeper understanding of the long-term dynamics that govern ecosystem persistence and reconciliation of conflicts among approaches to conserving historical versus novel ecosystems. Integrating emerging information from conservation biology, paleobiology, and the Earth sciences is an important step forward on the path to success. Maintaining nature in all its aspects will also entail immediately addressing the overarching threats of growing human population, overconsumption, pollution, and climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaah4787
Issue number6325
StatePublished - Feb 10 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the financial sponsors of the workshop at which these ideas were formulated: the Integrative Climate Change Biology Group (a scientific program of the International Union of Biological Sciences); the Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley Initiative for Global Change Biology, and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California, Berkeley; the Conservation Paleobiology Group at the Department of Biology, Stanford University; and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt, Germany. J. Head and P.D.P. were additionally funded by National Science Foundation ELT (Earth-Life Transitions) awards NSF EAR-1338028 (J. Head) and NSF EAR-13388298 (P.D.P.). A.D.B. and C.R.M. were partly funded by NSF grant EAR-1148181. We are especially grateful to V. Bowie for logistical support and graduate student helpers A. Poust, S. Elshafie, and P. Kloess. We thank D. Thomas for his production of tiger maps that were modified for Fig. 5 and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for granting permission to use the maps (original versions are available at, copyright 2014, all rights reserved). E. Holt, N. Spano, B. Stein, Zixiang Zhang, and anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.


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