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Common, rare species equally vulnerable to climate change

Common, rare species equally vulnerable to climate change
Researchers say that the overall population of amphibians -- which includes frogs -- has experienced declines in the last 50 years. Photo by Couleur/Pixabay

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Conservationists often assume that rarer species are more susceptible to the effects of climate change than more common species, but new research suggests populations of common animals are just as likely to rise or fall in response to climate change.

For the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers analyzed the population trajectories of more than 2,000 species across a variety of land, sea and freshwater ecosystems.

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The data showed populations of rare animals are not more sensitive to climate change, and that rare and common species, with comparable physiologies and ecologies, respond similarly to climate change.

In the new paper, authors call for conservationists to look beyond rare species when assessing how an ecosystem will be impacted by climate change.

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Researchers relied on data from the newly compiled Living Planet Database, which features information on 10,000 animal populations, including mammals, reptiles, sharks, fish, birds and amphibians, between 1970 and 2014.

"Only as we bring together data from around the world, can we begin to really understand how global change is influencing the biodiversity of our planet," study co-author Isla Myers-Smith, geoscientist with the University of Edinburgh, said in a news release.

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Across the nearly 50-year timeline, researchers found 15% of the animal populations declined, while 18% increased. More than two-thirds of animal populations experienced no significant change.

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While the overall populations of birds, mammals and reptiles increased between 1970 and 2014, amphibian numbers declined, making them a conservation priority, according to researchers.

"We often assume that declines in animal numbers are prevalent everywhere," said Edinburgh geoscientist Gergana Daskalova, lead author of the study. "But we found that there are also many species which have increased over the last half of a century, such as those that do well in human-modified landscapes or those that are the focus of conservation actions."

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