Scientists underestimate impact of global warming on wildlife

"We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now," researcher James Watson warned.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 13, 2017 at 3:23 PM

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A recent review of the scientific literature suggests ecologists and conservation groups have underestimated the impact of climate change on wildlife.

An analysis of 130 studies concerned with the ecological consequences of global warming revealed 700 bird and mammal species affected by climate change.

"There has been a massive under-reporting of these impacts," James Watson, an environmental scientist at the University of Queensland, said in a news release. "Only seven per cent of mammals and four per cent of birds that showed a negative response to climate change are currently considered 'threatened by climate change and severe weather' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species."

For mammals, climate change can diminish the ability of species to successfully exploit natural resources, particularly species less able to adapt to changing ecological conditions. For both birds and mammals, climate change can disrupt migration patterns, as well as shrink or fragment vital habitat.

Slow reproductive rates make primates and elephants especially vulnerable to global warming, researchers reported in their new survey -- published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now, we need to communicate this to wider public and we need to ensure key decisions makers know that something significant needs to happen now to stop species going extinct," Watson warned. "Climate change is not a future threat anymore."

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