HOUSTON, June 9 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests global warming may threaten animal and plant life in hot spots that were once thought to be less likely to suffer from climate change.
Research by Rice University Assistant Professor Amy Dunham is said to detail for the first time a direct correlation between El Nino-caused climate change and a threat to wildlife in Madagascar, a tropical island that acts as a refuge for many species that exist nowhere else in the world.
Dunham said most studies of global warming focus on temperate zones.
"We all know about the polar bears and their melting sea ice," she said. "But tropical regions are often thought of as refuges during past climate events, so they haven't been given as much attention until recently. We're starting to realize that not only are these hot spots of biodiversity facing habitat degradation and other anthropogenic effects, but they're also being affected by the same changes we feel in the temperate zones."
Dunham said Madagascar's biodiversity is an ecological treasure. "But its flora and fauna already face extinction from rapid deforestation and exploitation of natural resources," she said. "The additional negative effects of climate change make conservation concerns even more urgent."
The study that included Texas State University-San Marcos Associate Professor Elizabeth Erhart and Stony Brook University Professor Patricia Wright appears online ahead of print in the journal Global Change Biology.