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article imageExtinction alert: Many animal species could disappear in 50 years

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2020 in Environment
Biologists have expressed concern about plant and animal species extinction, making predictions about what could happen over the course of the next fifty years. A major driver for this threat is climate change.
The research comes from the University of Arizona and it draws on trends relating to more recent extinctions as the result of climate change, together with information about species movement and global heating estimates. The data relates to hundreds of plant and animal species distributed around the world.
The data points were used to construct a computational model. The starkest predictions from the model is that up to one in three species could face extinction, by 2070, unless global heating is reduced.
To develop the model, the research team collected data relating to 538 species from 581 sites distributed globally. The research was targeted on plant and animal species found at the same sites at least ten years apart. Over the time span of the study, it was found that 44 percent of the 538 species had become extinct in at least one site.
The data was correlated with nineteen variables relating to the climate, so it could be assessed what the impact of altering climate patterns had on the rate of species extinction in specific locales.
Of these different measures of the climate it was found that annual temperatures, especially the temperature relating to the hottest daily highs in summer, was the most important influencer in relation to whether a population was likely to face extinction.
Earlier, and to a degree more optimistic models, focused on how many animals can migrate to cooler habitats and thereby survive. The new study, however, finds that most animals will not be able to disperse sufficiently fast to avoid extinction threat.
As to the temperature rises, the model fond that up to half the at-risk species would be facing extinction if the temperature rose by just 0.5 degrees Celsius; this climbs to 95 percent of all threatened species if the ambient temperatures rise by a level above 2.9 degrees Celsius.
Even if the measures discussed in the Paris Climate Agreement are enacted (something unlikely now that the U.S. has withdrawn), two out of every ten threatened species will become extinct because the rate of mean global temperature increase is already too great.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the research paper is titled “Recent responses to climate change reveal the drivers of species extinction and survival.”
More about Evolution, Extinction, Endangered species, Nature, Ecology
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