Conservation evidence from climate-related stressors in the deep-time marine fossil record.Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 12 23; 374(1788):20190223.PT
Conservation of marine species requires the ability to predict the effects of climate-related stressors in an uncertain future. Experiments and observations in modern settings provide crucial information, but lack temporal scale and cannot anticipate emergent effects during ongoing global change. By contrast, the deep-time fossil record contains the long-term perspective at multiple global change events that can be used, at a broad scale, to test hypothesized effects of climate-related stressors. For example, geologically rapid carbon cycle disruption has often caused crises in reef ecosystems, and selective extinctions support the hypothesis that greater activity levels promote survival. Geographical patterns of extinction and extirpation were more variable than predicted from modern physiology, with tropical and temperate extinction peaks observed at different ancient events. Like any data source, the deep-time record has limitations but also provides opportunities that complement the limitations of modern and historical data. In particular, the deep-time record is the best source of information on actual outcomes of climate-related stressors in natural settings and over evolutionary timescales. Closer integration of modern and deep-time evidence can expand the types of hypotheses testable with the fossil record, yielding better predictions of extinction risk as climate-related stressors continue to intensify in future oceans. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'The past is a foreign country: how much can the fossil record actually inform conservation?'