The second warning to humanity: contributions and solutions from conservation physiology

Madliger, Christine L., Franklin, Craig E., Chown, Steven L., Fuller, Andrea, Hultine, Kevin R., Costantini, David, Hopkins, William A., Peck, Myron A., Rummer, Jodie L., Sack, Lawren, Willis, Craig K.R., and Cooke, Steven J. (2021) The second warning to humanity: contributions and solutions from conservation physiology. Conservation Physiology, 9 (1). coab038.

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In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists shared their ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity’ with governmental leaders worldwide, calling for immediate action to halt the environmental degradation that threatens the systems that support life on Earth. A follow-up ‘Second Warning’ was released in 2017, with over 15 000 scientists as signatories, describing the lack of progress in adopting the sustainable practices necessary to safeguard the biosphere. In their ‘Second Warning’, Ripple and colleagues provided 13 ‘diverse and effective steps humanity can take to transition to sustainability.’ Here, we discuss how the field of conservation physiology can contribute to six of these goals: (i) prioritizing connected, well-managed reserves; (ii) halting the conversion of native habitats to maintain ecosystem services; (iii) restoring native plant communities; (iv) rewilding regions with native species; (v) developing policy instruments; and (vi) increasing outdoor education, societal engagement and reverence for nature. Throughout, we focus our recommendations on specific aspects of physiological function while acknowledging that the exact traits that will be useful in each context are often still being determined and refined. However, for each goal, we include a short case study to illustrate a specific physiological trait or group of traits that is already being utilized in that context. We conclude with suggestions for how conservation physiologists can broaden the impact of their science aimed at accomplishing the goals of the ‘Second Warning’. Overall, we provide an overview of how conservation physiology can contribute to addressing the grand socio-environmental challenges of our time.

Item ID: 72189
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2051-1434
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 10:34
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 40%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310907 Animal physiological ecology @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 20%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190101 Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem) @ 20%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180507 Rehabilitation or conservation of marine environments @ 40%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 40%
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