There is great concern currently over environmental change and the biotic responses, actual or potential, to that change. There is also great concern over biodiversity and the observed losses to date. However, there has been little focus on the diversity of potential responses that organisms can make, and how this would influence both the focus of investigation and conservation efforts. Here emphasis is given to broad scale approaches, from gene to ecosystem and where a better understanding of diversity of potential response is needed. There is a need for the identification of rare, key or unique genomes and physiologies that should be made priorities for conservation because of their importance to global biodiversity. The new discipline of conservation physiology is one aspect of the many ways in which organismal responses to environmental variability and change can be investigated, but wider approaches are needed. Environmental change, whether natural or human induced occurs over a very wide range of scales, from nanometres to global and seconds to millennia. The processes involved in responses also function over a wide range of scales, from the molecular to the ecosystem. Organismal responses to change should be viewed in these wider frameworks. Within this overall framework the rate of change of an environmental variable dictates which biological process will be most important in the success or failure of the response. Taking this approach allows an equation to be formulated that allows the likely survival of future change to be estimated:where Ps=Probability of survival; PF=Physiological flexibility; GM=Gene pool modification rate; NP=number in population; F=Fitness; D=Dispersal capability; RA=Resource availability; ΔE=rate of change of the environment; C=Competition; PR=Predation and parasitism; HS=Habitat separation. Functions (f) are used here to denote that factors may interact and respond in a non-linear fashion.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier B.V.