Computational social science: Obstacles and opportunities :: Using paleo-archives to safeguard biodiversity under climate change

Featured Journal Content

28 August 2020 Vol 369, Issue 6507

Policy Forum
Computational social science: Obstacles and opportunities
By David M. J. Lazer, Alex Pentland, Duncan J. Watts, Sinan Aral, Susan Athey, Noshir Contractor, Deen Freelon, Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon, Gary King, Helen Margetts, Alondra Nelson, Matthew J. Salganik, Markus Strohmaier, Alessandro Vespignani, Claudia Wagner
Science28 Aug 2020 : 1060-1062 Restricted Access
Data sharing, research ethics, and incentives must improve
The field of computational social science (CSS) has exploded in prominence over the past decade, with thousands of papers published using observational data, experimental designs, and large-scale simulations that were once unfeasible or unavailable to researchers. These studies have greatly improved our understanding of important phenomena, ranging from social inequality to the spread of infectious diseases. The institutions supporting CSS in the academy have also grown substantially, as evidenced by the proliferation of conferences, workshops, and summer schools across the globe, across disciplines, and across sources of data. But the field has also fallen short in important ways. Many institutional structures around the field—including research ethics, pedagogy, and data infrastructure—are still nascent. We suggest opportunities to address these issues, especially in improving the alignment between the organization of the 20th-century university and the intellectual requirements of the field.

Using paleo-archives to safeguard biodiversity under climate change
By Damien A. Fordham, Stephen T. Jackson, Stuart C. Brown, Brian Huntley, Barry W. Brook, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Anders Svensson, Spyros Theodoridis, Janet M. Wilmshurst, Jessie C. Buettel, Elisabetta Canteri, Matthew McDowell, Ludovic Orlando, Julia Pilowsky, Carsten Rahbek, David Nogues-Bravo
Science28 Aug 2020
Using the past to inform the future
The late Quaternary paleorecord, within the past ∼130,000 years, can help to inform present-day management of the Earth’s ecosystems and biota under climate change. Fordham et al. review when and where rapid climate transitions can be found in the paleoclimate record. They show how such events in Earth’s history can shape our understanding of the consequences of future global warming, including rates of biodiversity loss, changes in ecosystem structure and function, and degradation in the goods and services that these ecosystems provide to humanity. They also highlight how recent developments at the intersection of paleoecology, paleoclimatology, and macroecology can provide opportunities to anticipate and manage the responses of species and ecosystems to changing climates in the Anthropocene.
Strategies for 21st-century environmental management and conservation under global change require a strong understanding of the biological mechanisms that mediate responses to climate- and human-driven change to successfully mitigate range contractions, extinctions, and the degradation of ecosystem services. Biodiversity responses to past rapid warming events can be followed in situ and over extended periods, using cross-disciplinary approaches that provide cost-effective and scalable information for species’ conservation and the maintenance of resilient ecosystems in many bioregions. Beyond the intrinsic knowledge gain such integrative research will increasingly provide the context, tools, and relevant case studies to assist in mitigating climate-driven biodiversity losses in the 21st century and beyond.