GAINESVILLE, Fla., Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Most climate change models are built to predict the consequences of tomorrow.
A new study, published this week in the journal Science, offers a snapshot of how global warming is affecting the planet -- and its flora and fauna -- right now.
According to a team of ecologists and conservation scientists from the University of Florida and the University of Hong Kong, global warming is already having a direct impact of the vast majority of global ecological processes.
Scientists began their research project by identifying 94 core ecological processes: 32 in terrestrial ecosystems, 31 in marine ecosystems and 31 in freshwater ecosystems. Next, scientists measured the effects of climate change on these core processes. They determined 77 of the 94 processes, or 82 percent, have already been altered by global warming.
"To put it bluntly, climate change is already happening, and it is altering ecological process and natural systems everywhere," study co-author David Dudgeon, an ecologist at the University of Hong Kong, affirmed in a news release. "We must to do more to limit carbon emissions and prevent further warming."
The new findings offer a comprehensive list of the ways in which a temperature increase of just 1 degree Celsius is already altering habitats, and as a result, altering the appearance, health and behavior of plants and animals.
"Genes are changing, species' physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are moving and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean," said lead author Brett Scheffers of the University of Florida.
The paper suggest the most dramatic impacts are being felt by especially isolated ecosystems and species.
"The paper shows that there are winners and losers under global warming: the geographic ranges of some species have expanded while others have contracted, and timing of breeding and other seasonal events have shifted," concluded Dudgeon.