According to a study published Thursday in the journal Science one in six species could disappear owing to the warming climate. Because of its small native species populations the mountains and rainforests of South America will face extinction rates over four time higher than the US and Canada. As for New Zeeland and Australia the percentage of extinction could be the double of the one estimated in North America.
The research conducted at the University of Connecticut analyzed 131 smaller studies. The findings of the study show that greenhouse gases and industrial emissions of carbon dioxide have increased the global average temperature by almost 0.8 degrees Celsius when compared to the average temperature at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Ecologist Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut remarked:
“This is evidence that we’re pushing the earth to a place where it has either never been or hasn’t been for a very, very long time.”
As if Urban’s conclusions would not be gloomy enough, other scientists believe that the situation will be even worse. Evolutionary biologist John J. Wiens of the University of Arizona estimates that the extinction rates will be two to three times higher.
Urban examined the 131 extinction studies and used a series of statistical techniques and computer models in order to bring the data together and create a global estimate. According to his investigation the extinction rates increase along with temperature rise.
Right now the risk of extinction caused by climate change is 2.8%. If the average global temperature increases with 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature reported before the industrial revolution 5.2% of the species will not survive. Taking into account the current climate trajectory the global average temperatures will rise 4.3 degrees Celsius in the future. This means that the extinction rates will reach 16%, representing one in six species.
According to Urban the impact of climate changes is not necessarily immediate. The long-term results which he anticipates would be caused by the fact that animals will no longer be able to find a suitable habitat. The habitats are likely to shrink in size so that the species will not be supported anymore. Or even worse, some habitats may disappear entirely.
Biogeographer Richard Pearson of University College London said that Urban’s meta-analysis offers important information. However, he believes that Urban underestimates the rate of extinctions. Urban acknowledged that this is synthesis of the best information available right now. However he added that improved climate extinction models will not appear any time soon.
Image Source: National Report