Well, I think it's about time to kick off a discussion about something.
Since I started the group, I feel responsible. So here goes.
This morning I read a short paper in Science
about 'Assisited Colonisatio'
. The basic idea is that in order to preserve species threatened by range contraction as a result of rapid climate change, it might sometimes be worth giving them a helping hand to expand their range or relocate to new habitat.
I have some reservations about that!
Firstly, I don't think you'll achieve much with this kind of single-species approach, unless the habitat you move them to is substantially similar to that which they were moved from (this might be possible in some circumstances).
Secondly, their suggestion that artificial reefs could be used to extend the availability of hard substrate so that reef species can migrate with changing temperatures strikes me as a very good way to set up invasion corridors for alien species to disperse into new habitat.
They also suggest that some species could benefit from the transplantation of individuals from more heat tolerant populations to areas experiencing temperature rises. For that to work you've got to be pretty sure that the differences in heat tolerance aren't due to phenotypic plasticity
. They use Acropora
corals as an example of species that could benefit from this kind of approach, but the paper they cite in support shows that the variation in heat tolerance is due to differences in the proportions of different strains of zoozanthellae in their tissues, and I'm not sure this is strictly inherited. Perhaps someone can clear that up for me?
But the authors do acknowledge that this is far from being advocated as a universal approach, which in some circumstance might be useful.
What do you think?
Have a read of the paper, it's quite short and readable, and then let's talk about it!
[I wrote a bit more on my blog
, which you are under no obligation to read, if you read the paper you're fine. But I'm always glad of the traffic!]