Who Will Survive? A Journey to Climate-Proof Populations

Climate change is exacerbating problems such as habitat loss and extreme temperature fluctuations. With one in four species currently under threat of extinction, understanding which ones are better equipped to adapt, and hence survive, can provide valuable information for conservation efforts and policy choices.

Direct and indirect drivers of global declines in nature. Source IPBES 2019.

Who will adapt?

One of the main challenges revolves around understanding if climate change is happening too fast for animals to adapt in time. “Climate change is one of the key threats to biodiversity and to human society in the coming century,” explains evolutionary ecologist at University College Cork, Thomas Reed.

Ensemble forecasting of the future (best- and worst-case scenarios) range change for (a) Gorilla spp and (b) Pan spp based on weighted mean and the true skill statistics. Source Carvalho et al. 2021

Evolutionary changes

Although many studies that address the impacts of climate change and land use change on biodiversity focus on individual species and their distribution ranges a study published in Nature Communications in July 2019 performed a meta-analysis, pulling all the data together to try to provide a broader conclusion on the effects of climate change on phenology, and hence the timing of recurring biological events.

Adaptive and maladaptive responses to climate change. Source Radchuk et al. 2019

Who will survive?

Although direct effects of climate change and land use change are relatively easy to assess, indirect ones are very hard to quantify and hence make understanding which species will survive complex and fraught in uncertainty. The indirect effects that are responsible for many climate change impacts on populations, such as in the food chain, are more complex to model than direct effects.

Euro-Mediterranean Center on #ClimateChange: integrated, multi-disciplinary and frontier research on climate science and policy.