The Future

Physiological ecology, because it deals with the reaction of plants and animals to the physical-chemical conditions in the environment, can potentially make an important contribution to understanding the likely consequences of the predicted increase in global temperatures and dramatic shift in rainfall patterns resulting from an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. C3 photosynthetic plants under these conditions are likely to become even more abundant, as long as sufficient amounts of water are available, but if the central regions of continents become increasingly arid, CAM and C4 plants are likely to locally increase. Among animals, those adapted for life at high altitudes and latitudes, probably will be pushed to extinction as a result of increased isotherms, with lower altitude and latitude species replacing the species presently living in these environments. Overall, this projected climatic change, should it come to pass, will lead to the massive extinction of species presently living in marginal environments. The great extinction of island endemics apparently resulted from their reduction in energy expenditure with its reduction in reproductive output combined with the human-based increase in mortality. This trend will likely continue with the continued impact of people and the projected increase in sea level.

See also: Ecophysiology; Parasitism; Stability versus Complexity.

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