Climate change to hit Amazon species the hardest

Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) Although Arctic areas have experienced the most rapid warming to date, climate-related threats to the Amazon basin’s biodiversity will eclipse those in other regions by the year 2100, scientists have projected.

“These results suggest that tropical species will likely be some of the most vulnerable to climate change,” said study co-author Joshua Lawler, associate professor of environmental and forest sciences at University of Washington.

To map the threat that climate change poses to birds, mammals and amphibians across the Western Hemisphere, the researchers used new high-performance computing methods and comprehensive data on the distribution of thousands of species.

They estimated the actual distance and speed it would take for an animal to disperse across the landscape to stay within its climate tolerances and survive in the face of climate change.

For example, the Amazon’s yellow-banded poison dart frog is projected to have to move several hundreds of kilometres to the southwest, because most of its range will likely become unsuitable for this species to live.

Several other amphibian species in this region showed similar movement patterns.

This combination of climate data and biological data showed that although polar regions currently are experiencing the greatest shifts in climate, species in the Amazon basin face the greatest threats because of the narrow range of conditions they can tolerate and the longer distance to cooler habitat that can serve as climate refuges.

“This study is the first time that scientists have been able to accurately estimate the velocity of climate change for thousands of species over entire continents,” lead author Carlos Carroll, ecologist with the Klamath Centre for Conservation Research in Orleans, California, said.

As climate shifts over the coming decades, such “velocity of climate change” information can help predict which species are likely to adapt in place to new climatic conditions, disperse and establish in areas with newly suitable climate, or face the prospect of extinction.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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