Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate change: Tropical species are most vulnerable to rising temperatures


A new study published today in “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences” by researchers of the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University shows that tropical species will be most at risk from rising temperatures as the discrepancy between physiological thermal limits and projected temperatures is highest in tropical regions.

In contrast, a large part of mammal and bird species in temperate zones will find ambient temperatures in 2080 within their tolerance ranges. However, indirect effects of rising temperatures may counteract opportunities given by species’ physiological tolerances in temperate zones.

The Northern Treeshrew is an indige-nous mammal in tropical Southeast Asia. The thermal tolerance of this species is only 7.5 degrees, which is quite narrow.

In responding to changing ambient conditions, species become extinct, adapt or move to a different, more suitable habitat. One of the largest studies of this kind was carried out by researchers from the German LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) and Goethe University. The study highlights the alternative idea that the species may also just be able to tolerate the ongoing changes.

The researchers selected nearly 460 mammal and bird species and analyzed their tolerated temperature ranges. These estimations were subsequently matched with data from geographical distributions and temperatures in these habitats currently and under projected climatic conditions in 2080. The analyzed species are a representative selection of physiological diversity within the global bird and mammal species.

Are species in temperate zones unmoved by climate change?
From a global perspective, 54% of the bird and 62% of the analyzed mammal species will experience temperatures above their tolerated threshold across 50% of their current distribution for a certain period of time. “However, we found significant regional differences. In 2080 the majority of the analyzed mammal and bird species living in the temperate zones will likely find suitable temperature conditions in a large part of their habitat. But they are not off the hook, because rising temperatures might have indirect effects. For instance, higher temperatures may improve conditions for pathogens or competing species and have negative impacts on the occurrence of food resources,” says Dr. Christian Hof, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F).

Species-rich tropical regions are most vulnerable to rising temperatures
The share of species which will experience temperatures above their tolerated threshold increases from polar and temperate regions towards tropical regions, even though increases of temperature projected for temperate and polar regions exceed those in the tropics. “Bird and mammal species living in tropical regions tend to live closer to their upper temperature limits. Even small increases in ambient temperatures may therefore challenge their long-term survival,“ explains the lead author of the study, Imran Khaliq, a current PhD student at BiK-F. In addition, projections show decreasing precipitation in tropical regions. This worsens the perspective for tropical species as water availability is crucial for endotherm species (such as mammals and birds) to compensate thermal stress.

Birds adapt physiologically to ambient climate, mammals adapt by behavior
Projections of mammal responses to climate change may contain a substantial component of uncertainty as the data show a higher independence of physiologically-tolerated temperatures and climatic conditions in their habitats when compared to birds. This may be due to differing strategies in coping with extreme temperatures. While in birds, physiological adaptations appear to dominate their strategies to cope with extreme temperatures, mammals have developed behavioral strategies to cope with climatic extremes, e.g. creating preferred microclimates in burrows and dens.

Khaliq, I., Hof, Ch. et al. Global variation in thermal tolerances and vulnerability of endotherms to climate change – Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1097

For more information please contact:

Dr. Christian Hof
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Tel. + 49 (0)69 7542 1804


Sabine Wendler
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Press officer
Tel. +49 (0)69 7542 1838

Sabine Wendler | Senckenberg
Further information:

Further reports about: BiK-F Biodiversity Climate Senckenberg mammal species temperature temperatures tropical

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Sea turtles face plastic pollution peril
09.10.2015 | University of Exeter

nachricht NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event
08.10.2015 | NOAA Headquarters

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Reliable in-line inspections of high-strength automotive body parts within seconds

Nondestructive material testing (NDT) is a fast and effective way to analyze the quality of a product during the manufacturing process. Because defective materials can lead to malfunctioning finished products, NDT is an essential quality assurance measure, especially in the manufacture of safety-critical components such as automotive B-pillars. NDT examines the quality without damaging the component or modifying the surface of the material. At this year's Blechexpo trade fair in Stuttgart, Fraunhofer IZFP will have an exhibit that demonstrates the nondestructive testing of high-strength automotive body parts using 3MA. The measurement results are available in a matter of seconds.

To minimize vehicle weight and fuel consumption while providing the highest level of crash safety, automotive bodies are reinforced with elements made from...

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Unexpected information about Earth's climate history from Yellow River sediment

09.10.2015 | Earth Sciences

Single atom alloy platinum-copper catalysts cut costs, boost green technology

09.10.2015 | Life Sciences

Indefatigable Hearing

09.10.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>