Princeton researchers investigate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity


Ecosystem health is declining around the world. Deforestation, habitat loss and the impacts of climate change are disrupting the normal rhythms of nature and impacting the availability of natural resources upon which species rely, making it increasingly difficult for many plants and animals to thrive.

“Our life on Earth as humans completely depends on the health of ecosystems,” said Mary (Cassie) Stoddard, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Clean water, nutritious foods, and the regulation of disease vectors are among the many products of healthy ecosystems. At Princeton, researchers are studying species in the field and modeling environmental change to gain insights into how plants, animals and ecosystems may function in the future with implications for human health and well-being.

What happens when flowers bloom early, before birds arrive back from their winter migrations to pollinate them? How will plant communities function under higher temperature conditions? These are the types of questions that Stoddard, fellow biologist Jonathan Levine, and other Princeton modelers and mathematicians are exploring. Faculty and students affiliated with Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute benefit from a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to address these urgent environmental challenges.

“Functioning, healthy ecosystems provide more value than people realize. They provide food, clean air, and a place to recharge.” said Jonathan Levine, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “Understanding how biodiversity and ecosystems at large respond to ongoing global change is absolutely critical to preserving ecosystems and the services they provide to the world.”