Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Animal species could find themselves facing new competitors as a result of climate change, according to a new study.
To survive climate change, animals have few options. They can adapt, move or both. But according to the authors of the latest study, published this week in the journal PNAS, scientists have ignored the downsides of these responses.
Computer models designed by a team of researchers from University of British Columbia and the University of Montpellier showed movement and genetic adaptation, on their own, can boost biodiversity, but the two factors can come into conflict.
When animals both move and adapt, faster evolving species can prevent slower adapting species from successfully relocating, driving them to extinction.
"These findings highlight the need to consider ecological and evolutionary processes together, or we risk underestimating how global change will impact biodiversity," researchers wrote in their paper.
According to the study, there are ways to ease the conflict.
"The good news is this conflict between moving and adapting is reduced when movement rates are high, which emphasizes the importance of maintaining well-connected landscapes," UBC ecologist Patrick Thompson said in a news release.
In addition to restoring habitat and preventing further fragmentation, wildlife corridors can help connect isolated patches of habitat. One recent study showed wildlife corridors connecting small patches of pine savanna in South Carolina boosted biodiversity and slowed rates of extinction.
Authors of the new study hope their findings serve as a reminder of the value of more comprehensive ecosystem and biodiversity models, as well as the pitfalls of focusing on single species.
"If we don't account for both dispersal and adaptation, we can overestimate how many species might survive in a changed environment," Thompson said.