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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Consequences of Adaptation

A new study has highlighted the potential pitfalls associated with reactive adaptations to climate change. Kearney et al. have utilised a model of the distribution and abundance of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Australia to simulate the response of dengue transmission in a changing climate. The authors conclude: "While we predict that climate change will directly increase habitat suitability throughout much of Australia, the potential indirect impact of changed water storage practices by humans in response to drought may have a greater effect." The implications of this study are that while climate change itself may pose an increased risk of dengue (consistent with prior work by Tony McMichael and others), such risk may be exacerbated by the behavioural responses of humans to other climate impacts such as drought. This leads to questions regarding how to value differential costs and benefits of adaptation policies and also suggests that more strategic, and holistic views of climate change and adaptation policy development may be needed if humans are to avoid simply trading one consequence for another.
Kearney et al (2009). Integrating biophysical models and evolutionary theory to predict climatic impacts on species' ranges: the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti in Australia, Functional Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01538.x, is published online on 28 January 2009.

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