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Thinking for a cooler world

Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Watch biodiversity declining

Credit: CC BY NC 2.0: Santiago Ron

Species will have to move closer together by 2080: both, plants and animals, have to expect dramatical habitat loss due to climate change. If you follow our weekly series on Facebook, where we present animals threatened by climate change every friday, you are likely to know that habitat loss is a common reason for species to go extinct.

Now researchers have quantified this threat of biodiversity: Living spaces will be halved, scientists say, for more than fifty percent of all plants and a third of all animals. For their study they evaluated the fate of 48,786 common animal and plant species across the globe under different global-warming-scenarios.

“While there has been much research on the effect of climate change on rare and endangered species, little has been known about how an increase in global temperature will affect more common species”, says Rachel Warren, lead author of the study, in a press release. “This broader issue of potential range loss in widespread species is a serious concern as even small declines in these species can significantly disrupt ecosystems.”

Species richness in 2080: The geographic ranges of common plants and animals will shrink globally and thus species richness will decline almost everywhere. The top two maps show how species richness declines without mitigation, with the red areas showing the greatest declines. Plants, reptiles and particularly amphibians are expected to be at highest risk. Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia would lose the most species of plants and animals. The lower four maps show how the declines can be reduced by mitigation. (Credit: Nature Climate Change)

The scientists predicted the species loss with help of computer simulations and climate models – taking different warming scenarios into account. So they also came up with some rather good news: Acting quickly to slow climate change could avoid by 60 per cent of projected losses and give species an additional 40 years to adapt.

If rich biodiversity alone doesn’t serve as an argument for humans to promote mitigation, Warren points out the impact of biodiversity loss on mankind: “There will also be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control, nutrient cycling, and eco-tourism.”


May 13, 2013