Species are on the move. Those that thrive in moist, cooler environments are quietly disappearing, while those that tolerate hotter, drier conditions are moving in to take their places.
These are just some of the changes among plants, animals and ecosystems that Brian Enquist, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, has witnessed over time, through data and with his own eyes.
Enquist frequently conducts fieldwork in the tropics and in alpine mountain environments, where, he says, biodiversity changes in response to global environmental changes are now clearly apparent and accelerating.
"When we talk about climate change, we tend to think about changes in temperature and rainfall," Enquist said.
While scientists have created increasingly more accurate models to predict how global temperatures, forest fire patterns or sea levels will change under different greenhouse gas emission scenarios, little has been done to predict similar changes in the biosphere, he said.
UArizona Mission Members Celebrate OSIRIS-REx Success
Members of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission, along with UArizona leadership, gathered to watch NASA's live broadcast of the mission's much-anticipated Touch-and-Go, or TAG, sampling event.
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
Oct. 20, 2020
If NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft could talk, today it might have said, "Finally!"
At 10:50 a.m. Tucson time, the van-sized spacecraft fired its thrusters to leave the safe-home orbit around asteroid Bennu and began descending toward the asteroid's surface, which the spacecraft spent two years photographing and mapping in tremendous detail. Its mission: Touch the asteroid for a few seconds and collect a sample to be later brought back to Earth.
Members of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission, along with UArizona leadership, gathered at the university's Michael J. Drake Building, where the mission is headquartered, to watch NASA's live broadcast of the mission's much-anticipated Touch-and-Go, or TAG, event and listen to status updates from the spacecraft.
At 3:13 p.m. Tucson time, the atmosphere inside the building changed from one of subdued anticipation to elation and relief as a physically distanced, masked crowd started to clap and cheer.
At that time, the mission's spacecraft confirmed that it had touched the surface of asteroid Bennu for 4.7 seconds and triggered a flush of nitrogen gas with the goal of collecting the largest sample of extraterrestrial material since the Apollo moon landings.
"I can't believe we pulled this off," Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a UArizona professor of planetary sciences, said from the mission control room at Lockheed Martin in Denver, where NASA's broadcast was based. "This is history. This is amazing."