Air Clean Up
Climate change could result in mass extinction of land animals
Jul 17 2013 Read 5475 Times
The majority of land animals throughout the world won't be able to adapt to the effects of climate change, two new studies claim. Research has suggested that very few animals will be able to adapt to a warmer climate caused by climate change because it is heating up too fast. One of the only species that could thrive in hotter climate is the great tit, whilst the majority of land animals will struggle to do so.
Professor John Wiens, from the University of Arizona, performed one of the studies that included data relating to 540 different animal species. The sample of animals included birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Each of the animals' evolutionary rates were compared to the most recent climate change projection - which estimates the levels of climate change that will occur by the end of this century - to determine whether they will be able to evolve enough to deal with the temperature and other environmental changes related to climate change.
The results were published in Ecology Letters and show that the majority of land animals that were assessed in the study will be unable to evolve at a rate suited to dealing with the effects of climate change. The much warmer climate that is estimated for the year 2100 could ultimately see the extinction of many animal species.
Professor Wiens said: "We found that, on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1C per million years. But if global temperatures are going to rise by about four degrees over the next 100 years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species."
The study suggests that the majority of land animals will be unable to adapt their physiologies quick enough to allow them to survive in warmer weather. There will not be enough generations to allow for the levels of evolution required to produce the necessary physical changes, which could mean that large numbers of species will eventually become extinct as climate change becomes more of an issue.
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