Biodiversity Threatened By Global Warming
May 13, 2013

Global Temperature Increases Could Threaten Global Biodiversity

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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If global temperatures increase by more than two degrees Celsius, it could have a dramatic impact on the biodiversity of both plants and animals, according to new research published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

In fact, according to BBC News Environment Correspondent Matt McGrath, the authors assert that more than half of common plant species and one-third of all animals could experience a serious decline in their habitat range because of global warming. However, they claim that those losses could be reversed if action to reduce greenhouse gases is taken quickly.

The international team of researchers analyzed the affect that rising temperatures would have on slightly less than 50,000 different common plant and animal species, McGrath explained. They looked at both the temperature and rainfall records for those species´ habitats, and used climate modeling to map the areas that would still be suitable for them to live in under an array of different climate change-related scenarios.

Unless significant efforts are made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will be four degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, the BBC correspondent said. Were that to happen, an estimated 34 percent of all animal species and 57 percent of plant species would see their current habitat ranges reduced by half — an event that could have serious implications for people across the globe.

“Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world. This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides,” Dr. Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia, corresponding author on the study, told McGrath. “There will also be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control, nutrient cycling, and eco-tourism.”

“The projected impacts on species will be felt more heavily in some parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region and Australia,” McGrath added. “However the researchers say that if global emissions of greenhouse gases are cut rapidly then the impact on biodiversity could be significantly curbed.”

In fact, they claim that if global emissions peak within the next three years and temperature rises do not exceed two degrees Celsius, then the total losses could be reduced by as much as 60 percent. In addition, they report that those losses could be cut by 40 percent provided emissions peak by the year 2030.