Climate Change

Temporary richness

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Science  27 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6460, pp. 1415-1416
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6460.1415-b

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Tundra flowers (mountain avens and vetch), Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

PHOTO: ALL CANADA PHOTOS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Direct human disturbance poses a challenge to making accurate assessments of the effects of climate change on species. In cooler and especially polar regions, greater absolute changes in conditions are being experienced. Because plants underpin ecosystem resilience and food security, Suggitt et al. have chosen to analyze data in a modeling framework on local plant diversity changes. For cooler latitudes, the alpha diversity of plants has declined in drier regions but increased by as much as 9% per decade in zones that have experienced more precipitation—likewise, but less certainly, for temperature changes. However, the model showed that in equatorial and arid regions, wetter and warmer conditions cannot undo the negative effects of nonclimate disruptions, including those of humans. It is important not to confuse local effects with climate change heightening global extinction risk for many species.

Curr. Biol. 29, 2905 (2019).

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