USGS: Climate trends upsetting ecosystems

Dec. 19, 2012 at 9:17 AM
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RESTON, Va., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Changing weather patterns are forcing plant and animal species to interact in ways that may be incompatible, a U.S. climate report finds.

A report led by U.S. Geological Survey -- "Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services" -- says animal and plant species are flowering, laying eggs or migrating in different ways and at different times than in previous years. This pattern, the USGS said, is accelerating.

"These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven't previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources," Nancy Grimm, an ecologist at Arizona State University and a lead author of the report, said in a statement.

The report warns that ecological imbalances may lead to sweeping changes in biodiversity. If, for example, insects emerge before migrating birds arrive, bird populations may decline. This could spill over to ecosystems like coastal areas in ways that may impact the human population.

Some parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change who met recently in Doha agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol and move ahead with plans for a new climate treaty after 2020.

Several reports released ahead of the climate talks suggested weather may grow more extreme even if world governments met existing emissions goals, however.

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