Climate change impacts on birds and mammals much more prevalent than reported

February 28th, 2017
By: Mike Gaworecki

The authors of a new study that attempts to quantify the number of wildlife species that are already experiencing adverse impacts from global climate change say their results show that the effects of global warming are much more evident right now than many realize due to the fact that there has been “a massive under-reporting of these impacts.”

A team of researchers led by Michela Pacifici of the Global Mammal Assessment Program at Sapienza University of Rome examined 130 previous studies on the impacts of climate change on threatened birds and mammals and found evidence that nearly 700 species have already exhibited negative responses to recent changes in climate. The team detailed their findings in a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change earlier this month.

Pacifici and her colleagues estimate that 47 percent of the 873 species of threatened terrestrial mammals and 23 percent of the 1,272 species of threatened birds included in the study have already been adversely impacted by climate change in at least some portion of their range or population. “Our results suggest that populations of large numbers of threatened species are likely to be already affected by climate change, and that conservation managers, planners and policy makers must take this into account in efforts to safeguard the future of biodiversity,” the researchers write in the study.

Pacifici said in a statement that these results imply that there is a high likelihood of these species being negatively impacted by future climate change, as well, especially if they are already living with adverse environmental conditions (previous research has found that, though the growth of mankind’s ecological footprint has slowed somewhat in recent years, we have already significantly impacted three quarters of the Earth and “seriously altered” 97 percent of the most species-rich places on the planet).

That makes it all the more important to understand the impacts already observable in wildlife due to climatic changes, given that, as noted in the study, the rate of warming over the past 50 years has been around 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade, nearly twice the rate of warming recorded over the previous five decades, meaning that global temperatures are likely to be well above the mean temperature for the current Holocene epoch by the year 2100.

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