Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Grasslands and Climate Change

Jonathan Newman

I started working on climate change in the mid-1990s.  I wasn’t all that keen to work in this area.  If you’ll pardon the pun, it wasn’t exactly the ‘hot topic’ it is today.  At that time climate change was a fringe topic among ecological researchers.  I got ‘dragged’ into this work by several friends who wanted to apply for a grant.  I liked them so I went along.  We didn’t get the grant, and ironically I was the only one who went on to work in the area.

In the mid-1990s the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was around 350 parts per million, today it is over 400 ppm.  The IPCC’s 1st assessment report (AR1) was published a few years earlier.  We now eagerly await AR6 (due in April 2021).  In the mid-1990s all talk was of the Kyoto Protocol (1992), now it’s all about the Paris Accords (2015).   In the mid-1990s, my colleagues and I were trying to make predictions about the impacts of climate change in the 2020s.  That seemed so far away at the time, but it recently dawned on me that the 2020s are now!


We’ve learned a lot about our climate system…

A lot has happened scientifically since the early 1990s.  We’ve learned a lot about our climate system, how it functions, and what the consequences of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations might be.  The latest dire report from the IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5°C, has been interpreted by some as suggesting that we have only until 2030 to avert climate disaster.


What do we know about the ecological impacts of climate change?  In the 29 years since AR1 was published, ecologists have fully embraced the study of climate change.  And grassland ecologists have often led the way in these studies, thanks to the tractability of doing ecological research in such environments, publishing nearly 1000 studies in that time.  My colleague, David Gibson, and I decided it was time to take stock of what we have learned, at least for grasslands!  With the encouragement of the British Ecological Society, David and I proposed a new volume in the BES’s Ecological Reviews series, published by Cambridge University Press.  The series dates back to 2005, yet this is the first review to focus solely on climate change[1].



More about Grasslands and Climate Change:

David and I were joined by 28 other grassland ecologists from Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  We present our finding in 19 chapters divided into four parts. In the book’s introductory section we review grasslands in a global context and then focus on the methodology used to study grasslands and climate change.

In Part I, we consider the impacts of climate change on grassland dynamics.

In Part II, we explore species traits, functional groups and evolutionary change.

Part III we turn our attention to how we might deal with a changing climate.  The book is comprehensive, up-to-date, and written by the top experts in the field.  It will serve as a good introduction to the field of study for policy makers, graduate students and advanced undergraduates.  Established researchers will benefit from the knowledge gaps we identified, and the pointers we give toward fertile grounds for future studies.


[1] See Coomes et al. 2014 Forests and Global Change.

Grasslands and Climate Change

Edited by:

David J. Gibson, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

Jonathan A. Newman, University of Guelph, Ontario

Part of Ecological Reviews

To order your copy, go to: www.cambridge.org/Grasslands

& Get 20% discount when you enter GIBSON19 at the checkout

About The Author

Jonathan Newman

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph...

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