Nowhere to run for tropical species

Climbing temperatures may doom many tropical species to extinction if they are unable to migrate to higher elevations or cooler latitudes, reports

Analysing data for 1,902 species of plants, insects, and fungi in the tropics, Robert Colwell and colleagues, writing in the journal Science, warn that lowland areas are particularly at risk of biodiversity loss due to warming since “there is no source of species adapted to higher temperatures to replace those driven upslope by warming”.

The authors estimate that more than half the species they studied in Costa Rica could potentially face such risks.

At the same time species adapted to high elevations will be faced with “mountaintop extinctions” when they reach the summit of mountains.

A second study, by Craig Moritz and colleagues, found that warming in California’s Yosemite National Park has already caused elevational shifts in the range of mammals species.

“These kinds of changes in community composition have been going on forever,” said James Patton, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of integrative biology who led the field work for the second study in Yosemite.

“The only thing that makes this different is that it has probably happened in our lifetime. It is the speed with which these changes are taking place that gives one pause.”


Date: 10/10/2008


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