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Conservation in the age of a changing climate

Alan Flurry

Over Spring break, an International Scientific Conference on "Past Plant Diversity, Climate Change and Mountain Conservation," organized under the Belmont Forum's VULPES project, convened a five-day meeting at the University of Cuenca, in the city of Cuenca – a World Cultural Heritage Site, in southern Ecuador. The conference, organized by professor and undergraduate coordinator in the department of geography Fausto O. Sarmiento, included fieldtrips to the surrounding tropandean landscapes of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gathering of some 70 colleagues from many countries, from Morocco to Cameroon, France to Brazil and China to England, and students from local universities from Quito, Guayaquil Loja and Cuenca was organized around an essential question: how can we conserve species in the face of Anthropogenic climate change?

The International Conference on Past Plant Diversity, Climate Change, and Mountain Conservation was aimed to address this question, with a focus on mountain (montane) species. As climate warms, there are several outcomes for montane species. They can migrate upslope, go extinct, or adapt to the warming conditions. Given these options, we got together to discuss our most recent datasets, and the best strategies for the conservation of montane species. Effective conservation strategies are crucial for the survival of many rare and endemic montane species, because climate is indeed warming, regardless of what Trump or Fox News tries to tell people.

Congratulations to all the participants and particularly Dr. Sarmiento for an academic effort that has solidified UGA global leadership in Mountain Geography. Outcomes from the conference will appear next year in the Frontiers of Biogeography, the Journal of Mountain Ecology and the Journal of Mountain Science.

Image of Cuenca City Hall in Bolívar Street via Wikimedia commons 

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