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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Biodiversity Getting Baked
7 January 2004 (All day)
The untimely extinction of the golden toad in a Costa Rican rainforest in the late 1980s just may have been the first in a long list of species driven to extinction by global warming. In the 8 January issue of Nature, a team of researchers concludes that if climate warming proceeds unchecked, 15% to 37% of the 1103 plant and animal species they examined will disappear by 2050.
"Losing all of these species is not absolutely inevitable," says lead author Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist at the University of Leeds, U.K. A substantial number could be saved, Thomas says, by "making the right political and economic decisions."
In a collaborative tour de force, scientists from across the globe came together to collectively analyze how changes in climate may affect various organisms. To predict which creatures are in danger of extinction, the teams used computer modeling and information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to compare the way habitats look today with how they may be altered by climate change. They also investigated whether particular species will be able to emigrate if their current territories become unfit.
The authors speculate that many other ecological problems could also erupt from changes in climate. For instance, species that move to a more suitable region or try to make do with their changed environments may have to battle invaders. And some creatures may face serious hurdles because the area between old and new destinations could also be rendered uninhabitable. Butterflies in Britain may be a good example of this, Thomas says. His work shows that many butterfly species that should have moved to more appropriate climates by now have not.
Until now, conservationists have pointed to habitat loss, direct overexploitation, and species invasions as the chief hazards to species survival, says Thomas. But the new study makes it "clear that climate change needs to be ranked among these as a major threat," he says.
The study does a "very nice job" of using different approaches to show that climate change is a dominant force, says Thomas Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment in Washington, D.C. "I think the single most important public policy [issue] here is agreeing on what the limit should be on greenhouse gas concentration," he says. "We've got to come to grips with where to draw the line."