From: Anna Taylor, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published August 30, 2013 08:02 AM

Climate change mitigation essential for even the most common species

Anna Taylor takes a closer look at the worrying findings of a recently published study which, unusually, chose to assess potential climate change mitigation scenarios on the more widespread and common species found on our planet...


It is well known that climate change will impact a great many species and ecosystems. The ranges of many species will change, ecosystem services will be disrupted, and biodiversity will be lost. But a new study has asked previously overlooked questions: What will happen if we try to stop climate change? What benefits would this bring in terms of avoiding biodiversity loss? And what will happen if we do nothing?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that, should temperatures reach two to three degrees above pre-industrial levels, 20-30% of species would be at increasingly high risk of extinction. With many species already endangered due to habitat loss, over-hunting and other anthropogenic factors causing their decline, climate change could well be the final nail in the coffin if their habitats become unsuitable as temperatures rise.

This recent study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, conducted a comprehensive analysis of 48,786 animal and plant species throughout the world. The team of scientists wanted to find out how each of these species' ranges would change depending on what action we take to prevent climate change. This included what would happen to them if we take no action at all, their baseline scenario in which global temperatures reach 4°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Of the total number of species studied, 80% currently have ranges spanning over 30,000 km2 - rather than focusing on rare species, the scientists chose to examine the impact of climate change mitigation on widespread, common species that are less likely to face extinction (and less likely to be studied) than those with smaller ranges.

The analysis showed that, without mitigation, 34% of animals would lose half or more of their climatic range. For plants, 57% would lose more than half of their current ranges, with negative impacts for those animals that rely on them for food. By comparison, only 4% of animals would benefit from climate change by gaining more than half of their range, and no plants at all would benefit, leading the scientists to surmise that climate change will "overwhelmingly result in a sizeable reduction of climatically suitable ranges for a large number of species."

Read more at The Ecologist.

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