Further loss of plant and animal species due to climate change may occur abruptly

Loss of biodiversity due to climate change: deforestation

Earth’s climate is changing. No, it is not a hoax, not a projection, not something that may happen hundreds of years from now, and not some scare tactic from evil liberals. No, it’s really changing; it is happening right now. And, one of the consequences has been and is a loss of biodiversity–the extinction and disappearance of animal and plant species.

“32% of all known species across all ecosystems and groups are decreasing in abundance and range. In fact, the Earth has lost about 60 percent of all vertebrate individuals since 1970.”

Research suggests that future loss of biodiversity may happen very abruptly.

“As climate change continues, the risks to biodiversity will increase over time, with future projections indicating that a potentially catastrophic loss of global biodiversity is on the horizon. However, our understanding of when and how abruptly this climate-driven disruption of biodiversity will occur is limited because biodiversity forecasts typically focus on individual snapshots of the future. Here we use annual projections (from 1850 to 2100) of temperature and precipitation across the ranges of more than 30,000 marine and terrestrial species to estimate the timing of their exposure to potentially dangerous climate conditions. We project that future disruption of ecological assemblages as a result of climate change will be abrupt, because within any given ecological assemblage the exposure of most species to climate conditions beyond their realized niche limits occurs almost simultaneously. Under a high-emissions scenario (representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5), such abrupt exposure events begin before 2030 in tropical oceans and spread to tropical forests and higher latitudes by 2050. If global warming is kept below 2 °C, less than 2% of assemblages globally are projected to undergo abrupt exposure events of more than 20% of their constituent species; however, the risk accelerates with the magnitude of warming, threatening 15% of assemblages at 4 °C, with similar levels of risk in protected and unprotected areas. These results highlight the impending risk of sudden and severe biodiversity losses from climate change and provide a framework for predicting both when and where these events may occur.”

Featured article:

Trisos, C.H., Merow, C. & Pigot, A.L. (2020). The projected timing of abrupt ecological disruption from climate change. Nature, 580, 496–501. [Cited by]

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu)

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