Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ice-age reptile extinctions provide a glimpse of likely responses to human-caused climate change

10.12.2010
A wave of reptile extinctions on the Greek islands over the past 15,000 years may offer a preview of the way plants and animals will respond as the world rapidly warms due to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues.
The Greek island extinctions also highlight the critical importance of preserving habitat corridors that will enable plants and animals to migrate in response to climate change, thereby maximizing their chances of survival.

As the climate warmed at the tail end of the last ice age, sea levels rose and formed scores of Aegean islands that had formerly been part of the Greek mainland. At the same time, cool and moist forested areas dwindled as aridity spread through the region.

In response to the combined effects of a shifting climate, vegetation changes and ever-decreasing island size, many reptile populations perished.

To gain a clearer understanding of the past consequences of climate change, Johannes Foufopoulos (foo FOP oo los) and his colleagues calculated the population extinction rates of 35 reptile species—assorted lizards, snakes and turtles—from 87 Greek islands in the northeast Mediterranean Sea. The calculated extinction rates were based on the modern-day presence or absence of each species on islands that were connected to the mainland during the last ice age.

Foufopoulos and his colleagues found a striking pattern to the island extinctions. In most cases, reptile populations disappeared on the smallest islands first—the places where the habitat choices were most limited.

Especially hard hit were "habitat specialist" reptiles that required a narrow range of environmental conditions to survive. In addition, northern-dwelling species that required cool, moist conditions showed some of the highest extinction rates.

The study results appear in the January edition of American Naturalist.

The researchers conclude that a similar pattern of extinctions will emerge at various spots across the globe as the climate warms in the coming decades and centuries. In addition to adapting to a changing climate, plants and animals will be forced to traverse an increasingly fragmented natural landscape.

In many places, small chunks of natural habitat are now surrounded by vast, inhospitable expanses of agricultural and urbanized land, just as those newly formed Aegean islands were surrounded by rising seas thousands of years ago.

"The widespread fragmentation of natural habitats greatly exacerbates the effects of climate change and undermines the ability of species to adapt to the new conditions," said Foufopoulos, an associate professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

In addition to Foufopoulos, the paper's authors are Anthony Ives of the University of Wisconsin and A. Marm Kilpatrick of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"The lessons learned from the wave of reptile extinctions suggest that if species are to survive the global climate shift already underway, not only do humans have to set significantly more land aside for conservation, but these protected areas will also need to be connected through a network of habitat corridors that allow species migration," Foufopoulos said.

Over the last several decades, global warming has resulted in a poleward shift in the range of many birds, butterflies and other creatures. This shift to cooler climes—northward in the Northern Hemisphere and southward in the Southern Hemisphere—is expected to continue in the future as organisms seek out places where temperature and moisture levels permit their survival.

Funding for the project was provided through the University of Wisconsin's Department of Zoology, the University of Michigan, the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Cleveland Dodge Foundation and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

U-M Sustainability fosters a more sustainable world through collaborations across campus and beyond aimed at educating students, generating new knowledge, and minimizing our environmental footprint. Learn more at sustainability.umich.edu

Jim Erickson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=8164

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Uncovering decades of questionable investments

18.01.2018 | Business and Finance

Novel chip-based gene expression tool analyzes RNA quickly and accurately

18.01.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>