We have been told many times by researchers that the current climate change will cause loss of animal and plant diversity globally. A recent study shows that things could be even worse in terms of species extinction numbers. Ecologist Mark Urban and his co-authors state that the commonly used climate change models don’t account for species competition and species movement.
And by doing so these models grossly underestimate the loss of species diversity in the (near) future. Every species has got its own habitat characteristics, adaptations to situations that have developed over a long period of time (call it evolution). Some have a small niche and no ability left to adapt to the climate (and habitat) change that is predicted. Included in the adaptation process is the ability to move, and go to other places on this globe where the habitat is more suitable when the original habitat cease to exist. Urban and his fellow scientists developed a mathematical model that takes into account the varying rates of migration and the different intensities of competition between species in ecosystems. The goal was to predict how successful species would be when shifting to completely new habitats/ecosystems.
Obviously, their results showed that animals and plants that can adjust to climate change will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t. They “predict that climate change will most threaten communities of species that have narrow niches (e.g. tropics), vary in dispersal (most communities) and compete strongly.” In addition they say that current forecasts of climate change impacts on biodiversity probably underestimate species extinctions by neglecting competition and dispersal differences.
Incorporating these issues like competition and dispersal could lead to predictions about which species might be most at risk according to Urban. My response would be: “and then what?”
(Sources: EurekAlert, 03.01.2012; Bloomberg, 04.01.2012) — the quotes are from Mark Urban -