PerspectiveEcology

Extinction risks from climate change

Science  01 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6234, pp. 501-502
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2057

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Summary

Biologists worry that the rapid rates of warming projected for the planet (1) will doom many species to extinction. Species could face extinction with climate change if climatically suitable habitat disappears or is made inaccessible by geographic barriers or species' inability to disperse (see the figure, panels A to E). Previous studies have provided region- or taxon-specific estimates of biodiversity loss with climate change that range from 0% to 54%, making it difficult to assess the seriousness of this problem. On page 571 of this issue, Urban (2) provides a synthetic and sobering estimate of climate change–induced biodiversity loss by applying a model-averaging approach to 131 of these studies. The result is a projection that up to one-sixth of all species may go extinct if we follow “business as usual” trajectories of carbon emissions.

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