Maps show how climate change may affect global biodiversity

‘We need to act fast to make sure as much of the world’s living resources survive that change …’


Shifting global temperatures are drive a climate-induced migration.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An international team of researchers have published new global maps showing how fast and in which direction local climates are shifting, and how those changes could affect global biodiversity.

As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to track their ideal climate.

“The maps show areas where plants and animals may struggle to find a new home in a changing climate and provide crucial information for targeting conservation efforts,” said Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researcher Dr. Elvira Poloczanska.

The study analyzed 50 years of sea surface and land temperature data (1960-2009) and also investigated two future scenarios for marine environments (‘business as usual’ and a 1.75 degree Celsius temperature increase).

“The maps show us how fast and in which direction temperatures are shifting, and where climate migrants following them may hit barriers such as coastlines. Our work shows that climate migration is far more complex than a simple shift towards the poles,”said Kristen Williams, an ecological geographer.

“Across Australia, species are already experiencing warmer temperatures. In terrestrial habitats, species have started to seek relief by moving to higher elevations, or further south. However, some species of animals and plants cannot move large distances, and some not at all,” Williams said.

Species migration can have important consequences for local biodiversity. For example, the dry, flat continental interior of Australia is a hot, arid region where species already exist close to the margin of their thermal tolerances.

Some species driven south from monsoonal northern Australia in the hope of cooler habitats may perish in that environment.

“In the oceans, warming waters and a strengthening of the East Australian Current have mobilised the Long-spined Sea Urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii), previously only found as far south as southern NSW, to invade the eastern Tasmania coast. This has resulted in the decline of giant kelp forests with knock-on effects for commercially-fished rock lobsters,” Dr Poloczanska said.

CSIRO and University of Queensland’s Anthony Richardson said the study cannot be used as a sole guide as to what to do in the face of climate change.

“Biological factors such as a species’ capacity to adapt and disperse need to be taken into consideration,” Professor Richardson said. “But in an unprecedented period of climate change, economic development and fast growing demand on an already pressured planet, we need to act fast to make sure as much of the world’s living resources survive that change.”

The study was undertaken by CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska and Associate Professor Anthony Richardson and Dr Kristen Williams with a team of 18 international researchers from Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, UK and USA.

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4 Responses

  1. A very wise man once said to me, about the American Elm trees: Their time has come, and gone. We’ve done what we’ve done; Earth has responded. There isn’t much chance people will stop using fossil fuels in time to stop the changes, but we can be “saved” along with all the other species if the polar cap melt (or something else) causes internal Earth changes that result in massive volcanism with airborne fine ash that shades Earth from solar heat inputs.Otherwise, que sera, sera. New and different species will live on Earth. I’m glad I’m old.

    • I am old too. However our DNA is programmed to seek continuation of life beyond my short life in reproduction of my genes and those of the community to which i am directly attached – Homo Sapiens – and the communities to which I and my direct community are indirectly attached – the global ecosystem. Science tells us much about these phenomena. Homo Sapiens still governs itself with mysticism and mythology instead of rational behavior, with misguided action based on self-interest instead of community interest and well-being. I share your pessimism about the probable failure to control greenhouse gases but despite my age, we must be activists in helping the “saving” that you and I devoutly desire. Thank goodness for people such as Bob Berwyn!

      Bert Melcher

  2. Acronyms, when first used in a document, should always have the full name or title for which they stand. “CSIRO”: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world. (CSIRO Website.)

    Albert G .Melcher

  3. Did the study mention anything about controlling population?

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