While most studies seek to predict global warming’s future impact on animal survival, new research has found that, for “large numbers” of threatened species, the damage is already being done. Data suggests that “the impact of climate change on mammals and birds in the recent past is currently greatly under-appreciated,” according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change last week.
Researchers have amassed data from 136 previous studies, looking at 120 mammal and 569 bird species. They compared documented changes in climate with growth or decline in population sizes, geographic ranges, body mass, and reproductive and survival rates. The team then extrapolated the data to all land mammals and birds listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Of all animals identified by the study as likely to have “responded negatively” to climate change, only 7 percent of mammals and 4 percent of birds were recognized by the IUCN as threatened by “climate change and severe weather.”
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Liberty Times
Endangered primates and elephants are among the groups squeezed hardest by global warming, partly because they reproduce slowly and thus take longer to adapt to rapid environmental changes, they reported. Many of the hardest-hit bird species are aquatic birds, as aquatic environments are considered among the most vulnerable to temperature increase, the researchers added.
Climate change can affect animals by limiting food and water, spreading disease and shrinking habitats.
1. geographic range n. phr.
(di4 li3 fen1 bu4)
2. extrapolate v.
3. primate n.
(ling2 zhang2 lei4)
4. habitat n.
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