Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change

Date:
August 19, 2011
Source:
University of York
Summary:
New research shows that species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated.

An Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) found in the foothills of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, with first author I-Ching Chen.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of York

New research by scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of York shows that species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated. These results are published in the latest issue of the leading scientific journal Science.

Related Articles


Faster distribution changes. Species have moved towards the poles (further north in the northern hemisphere, to locations where conditions are cooler) at three times the rate previously accepted in the scientific literature, and they have moved to cooler, higher altitudes at twice the rate previously realised.

Analysing data for over 2000 responses by animal and plant species, the research team estimated that, on average, species have moved to higher elevations at 12.2 metres per decade and, more dramatically, to higher latitudes at 17.6 kilometres per decade.

Project leader Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said: "These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 cm per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year. This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century. "

The link to climate change. This study for the first time showed that species have moved furthest in regions where the climate has warmed the most, unambiguously linking the changes in where species survive to climate warming over the last 40 years.

First author Dr I-Ching Chen, previously a PhD student at York and now a researcher at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, said: "This research shows that it is global warming that is causing species to move towards the poles and to higher elevations. We have for the first time shown that the amount by which the distributions of species have changed is correlated with the amount the climate has changed in that region."

Co-author Dr Ralf Ohlemόller, from Durham University, said: "We were able to calculate how far species might have been expected to move so that the temperatures they experience today are the same as the ones they used to experience, before global warming kicked in. Remarkably, species have on average moved towards the poles as rapidly as expected."

A diversity of changes. These conclusions hold for the average responses of species, but individual species showed much greater variation. Some species have moved much more slowly than expected, others have not moved, and some have even retreated where they are expected to expand. In contrast, other species have raced ahead, perhaps because they are sensitive to a particular component of climate change (rather than to average warming), or because other changes to the environment have also been driving their responses.

Co-author Dr David Roy, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, illustrates this variation among species: "In Britain, the high brown fritillary butterfly might have been expected to expand northwards into Scotland if climate warming was the only thing affecting it, but it has in fact declined because its habitats have been lost. Meanwhile, the comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometres northwards from central England to Edinburgh, in only two decades."

Similar variation has taken place in other animal groups. Cetti's warbler, a small brown bird with a loud voice, moved northwards in Britain by 150 kilometres during the same period when the Cirl bunting retreated southward by 120 kilometres, the latter experiencing a major decline associated with the intensification of agriculture.

How they did the research. The researchers brought together all of the known studies of how species have changed their distributions, and analysed them together in a "meta-analysis." The changes that were studied include species retreating where conditions are getting too hot (at low altitudes and latitudes), species expanding where conditions are no longer too cold (at high altitude and latitudes), and species staying where they are but with numbers declining in hotter parts and increasing in cooler parts of the range.

They considered studies of latitudinal and elevational range shifts from throughout the world, but most of the available data were from Europe and North America.

Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, spiders, other invertebrates, and plants featured in the evidence. For example, I-Ching Chen and her colleagues discovered that moths had on average moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.

Co-author Jane Hill, Professor of Ecology at York, said: "We have taken the published literature and analysed it to detect what the overall pattern of change is, something that is not possible from an individual study. It's a summary of the state of world knowledge about how the ranges of species are responding to climate change. Our analysis shows that rates of response to climate change are two or three times faster than previously realised."

Implications. The current research does not explicitly consider the risks posed to species from climate change, but previous studies suggest that climate change represents a serious extinction risk to at least 10 per cent of the world's species. Professor Thomas says: "Realisation of how fast species are moving because of climate change indicates that many species may indeed be heading rapidly towards extinction, where climatic conditions are deteriorating. On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. I.-C. Chen, J. K. Hill, R. Ohlemuller, D. B. Roy, C. D. Thomas. Rapid Range Shifts of Species Associated with High Levels of Climate Warming. Science, 2011; 333 (6045): 1024 DOI: 10.1126/science.1206432

Cite This Page:

University of York. "Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818142727.htm>.
University of York. (2011, August 19). Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818142727.htm
University of York. "Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818142727.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) — Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) — One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins