PLOS Biology: Live Fast, Die Young: Experimental Evidence of Population Extinction Risk due to Climate Change

Over the last decades, consequences of global warming on biodiversity have become obvious [1–3], with many species likely to be committed to extinction by 2050 [4]. Climate warming has already led to changes in species phenology [1], physiology (increased metabolic rates [5]), morphology (shrinking body size [6]), life cycle demography [7], and distribution [1], and, as a consequence, in community structure [8]. Because their body temperature, and hence their basic physiological functions, directly depend on environmental conditions, ectotherms are particularly at risk with climate change [5], while the number of studies assessing their response to changing climate is far lower than for endotherms [9]. The evaluation of their vulnerability is therefore urgent. For instance, a recent study predicted local extinctions of populations from various lizard families worldwide to reach 39% by 2080 due to climate change [10]. Theoretical studies predict that climate change will principally threaten tropical ectotherms [11–14], while temperate ectotherms should resist or even benefit from the warmer temperatures [13,15–17]. However, most evidence on the impacts of climate change on species comes from long-term field survey data [1,8], or on the contrary, on short term laboratory experiments lacking ecological realism and complexity [18–20]. Despite the growing evidence on the strong impact of ecological context on species adaptation to temperature [21], there is little large scale realistic experimental evidence on animals, especially on vertebrates [20,22–25]. More importantly, to our knowledge, the impact of climate change on a species’ entire life cycle and population persistence has never been experimentally tested on a vertebrate [26]. This information gap hinders the prediction of future impacts, because unraveling the impact of predicted climate on different demographic parameters is essential for the precise estimation of extinction probability [27,28]. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a global temperature increase between +0.3 and +4.8°C over the next century, depending on the CO2 emission scenarios [29]. Experimental studies should thus implement realistic IPCC climate change projections relying on several greenhouse gas emission scenarios and describe population responses to said scenarios in large field experiments [24,25].

Source: PLOS Biology: Live Fast, Die Young: Experimental Evidence of Population Extinction Risk due to Climate Change

Author: Makere

A Maori/Scots New Zealander transplanted to Canada. Grandmother, academic, indigenous scholar, sometime singer, sometime activist, who cares passionately about our world.