Relics of a Warm Era, Some Species May Be Suited to a Hotter Climate

Some species may be better able to withstand climate change than was previously thought. That’s because these species have changed little since the last warm period on Earth.

By the end of this century, the planet is expected to be around as warm as it was 130,000 years ago. Species that arose during this time would be able to withstand a hotter climate. This is particularly relevant in the tropics, where heat is reaching new extremes.

Warming will diminish the variety of plants and animals residing in tropical lands, but by how much? Past research suggests these areas will see, on average, a 54 percent drop in the number of resident species. But a new modeling study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, puts that figure at 39 percent.

The study offers hope for some tropical species facing a hotter future, though the findings are, researchers note, only a marginal improvement on previous estimates. The study also doesn’t account for other threats to wildlife, such as pollution, overhunting, or the loss of wilderness. And for species in cold or even temperate climates, the new research offers little comfort, authors warn.

“These species are already living at the limit of their climatic niche and will not be able to tolerate significantly warmer temperatures,” said study coauthor Olivier Broennimann, of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. “That is a sure thing.”


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