Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Study: Global warming greatest threat to species

Loss of biodiversity is bad because it weakens the biosphere which is what stabilises our climate. Less biodiversity means less carbon is cycling through the ecosystem. More is left backing up in the atmosphere as heat trapping carbon dioxide in a nasty positive feedback cycle, accelerating the global warming. It is never good news; when a single species dies off the effect cascades up and down the food-chain ultimately clogging up nature's carbon sink and leading to further loss.

Now a new study says that a rise of just 2 degrees over the next 50 years could wipe out tens of thousands of plants and animal species.

So pervasive would this wave of extinction be, that the study, co-authored by CI's Lee Hannah - says that by the end of this century, climate change will represent a greater threat to biodiversity than deforestation, with important implication to the long-term endurance of our conservation gains. "Climate change is one of the most serious threats to Earth's biodiversity," says Jay Malcolm, the study's lead author and assistant forestry professor at the University of Toronto. "We now have strong scientific evidence that global warming will result in catastrophic species loss across the planet."

The study, supported by the CI, the World Wildlife Fund, and the David Suzuki Foundation researched plants and animals in 25 to 34 biodiversity hotspots. The most vulnerable biodiversity hotspots are the Cape Floristic, Caribbean, Indo-Burma, Southwestern Australia, Mediterranean Basin and Tropical Andes hotspots, where extinctions of plant and animal species in each region could exceed 2,000.

The new study also corroborates controversial findings published two years ago in the journal Natureby scientists from the University of Leeds and CI, that claimed global warming from increased atmospheric greenhouse gasses could drive species to seek cooler latitudes or higher altitudes. But for many specialized creatures already living on mountaintops or islands, there may be nowhere else to go, resulting, the Leeds study said, in the extinction of over a million animal species by 2050.
Source: Conservation Org

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1 comment:

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