The Extinction of Species due to Climate Change is Increasing

by Duane Nichols on May 3, 2015

TITLE: Accelerating extinction risk from climate change

From an Article by Mark C. Urban, Science,  May 1, 2015, Vol. 348 no. 6234 pp. 571-573

By Mark Urban, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, 75 North Eagleville Road, Unit 3043, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.

ABSTRACT — Accelerating extinction risk from climate change

Current predictions of extinction risks from climate change vary widely depending on the specific assumptions and geographic and taxonomic focus of each study. I synthesized published studies in order to estimate a global mean extinction rate and determine which factors contribute the greatest uncertainty to climate change–induced extinction risks. Results suggest that extinction risks will accelerate with future global temperatures, threatening up to one in six species under current policies. Extinction risks were highest in South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and risks did not vary by taxonomic group. Realistic assumptions about extinction debt and dispersal capacity substantially increased extinction risks. We urgently need to adopt strategies that limit further climate change if we are to avoid an acceleration of global extinctions.

 SUMMARY — Predicting extinction in a changing world

There is great interest in understanding how species might respond to our changing climate, but predictions have varied greatly. Mark Urban looked at over 130 studies to identify the level of risk that climate change poses to species and the specific traits and characteristics that contribute to risk (see the Perspective by Hille Ris Lambers below). If climate changes proceed as expected, one in six species could face extinction. Several regions, including South America, Australia, and New Zealand, face the greatest risk. Understanding these patterns will help us to prepare for, and hopefully prevent, climate-related loss of biodiversity.


Ecological Perspective — Extinction risks from climate change

By Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

Biologists worry that the rapid rates of warming projected for the planet will doom many species to extinction. Species could face extinction with climate change if climatically suitable habitat disappears or is made inaccessible by geographic barriers or species’ inability to disperse (see the figure, panels A to E). Previous studies have provided region- or taxon-specific estimates of biodiversity loss with climate change that range from 0% to 54%, making it difficult to assess the seriousness of this problem. On page 571 of this issue, Urban provides a synthetic and sobering estimate of climate change–induced biodiversity loss by applying a model-averaging approach to 131 of these studies. The result is a projection that up to one-sixth of all species may go extinct if we follow “business as usual” trajectories of carbon emissions.

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