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Species extinction

Coming global warming will cause climate zone migration, species extinction

Wednesday, September 05, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: species extinction, global warming, climate change

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(NewsTarget) By the year 2100, global warming likely will cause the extinction of numerous species by eliminating the climate zones in which they are able to live, according to study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences.

Using data and scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers predicted that global warming will cause currently existing climate zones to move further toward the poles. This will cause the elimination of the climate regions closest to the poles or near the tops of tropical mountains, including the tropical Andes, southeast Australia, the African rift mountains, the Angolan and Zambian Highlands, the South African Cape region, and parts of the Himalayas and Arctic.

"How do you conserve the biological diversity of these entire systems if the physical environment is changing and potentially disappearing?" said lead author John Williams.

The researchers also predicted that the species least likely to be able to adapt or migrate along with their preferred climate zones are those currently living in relatively stable tropical and subtropical climates. This means that species diversity in Amazon and Indonesian rainforests is likely to plummet.

"One of the things that comes from our paper is that because the species that live in the tropics are adapted or have evolved for a reduced range of variability, it may be the two- to three-degree temperature change in the tropics may be more significant, say, than a five to eight-degree change in high latitudes," Williams said. To date, however, more attention has focused on global warming's impacts on the Arctic, which are being felt more quickly.

The study also concluded that by 2100, climate zones will have changed over 12 to 39 percent of the Earth's land surface. These results came from using a scenario that presumes a continuation of current patterns of fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. Assuming continued industrial development in a less emissions-intensive pattern, the predicted change was over 4 to 20 percent of the planet's land surface.

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