Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 14: Vertebrates in general decline, mass extinction underestimated

Whether you focus on mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians – land vertebrates are in rapid decline everywhere around us, illustrating a general decline of Life on Earth – and a prelude to the Holocene-Anthropocene Mass Extinction, that is being underestimated in speed and severity.

The reason of this underestimation: demography – the decline of species populations. This is not always counted in when assessing the global ecological crisis, but if you do, you get to see that the actual trend is much worse than most people think…

population extinction land vertebrates
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 13: Being small is no guaranteed climate change survival strategy

If you live inside a heap of compost in someone’s backyard, your life may already feel quite miserable. But if you’re really tiny, at least you’re probably thinking your chances of surviving climate chance are –comparatively– okay.

Well, our dear little springtail –we hate to bring it to you– but science may have bad news. Sometimes it’s just not fair.

Small species do not always have survival advantage under climate change
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 12: Improving ecosystem health decreases climate extinctions

If what goes for worms goes for the wider world, there is an important lesson to be learned: in order to prevent extinctions, we need to improve ecosystem health – before climate change kicks in.

That is because ecosystems with larger natural diversity have better adaptive mechanisms – allowing the preservation of more biodiversity.

Biodiversity protects against climate extinctions - plant & nematode species
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 11: New climate-biodiversity models better; now need more data

Predictive models that can forecast biodiversity decline under anthropogenic climate change used to be too simplistic, as these ignored crucial biological mechanisms such as demography, dispersal, evolution, and species interactions (for instance species competition and ecosystem dependence).

Fortunately these climate-biodiversity models are improving. But in order to also improve the quality of their biodiversity predictions these improved models now require more – and better data.

Improving climate-biodiversity models
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 10: Biodiversity loss accelerates under warming, metastudy shows

Climate change leads to species extinctions and exponentially so: the loss of biodiversity is set to accelerate under continuation of global average temperature rise.

Climate change's exponential decline of biodiversity
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 9: Cascading extinctions speed up biodiversity loss – and warming

Yes, we found yet another publication that is critical of one-dimensional biodiversity loss projections of climate change – and again it is a component of interspecies interaction that may be underestimated. We’ve previously looked at species competition and at evolutionary responses, and today we add species’ interdependence – the ecosystem perspective:

Extinction feedback creates cascading biodiversity loss and amplified climate change
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 8: Locally biodiversity might increase, kick-starting (global) decline

As species migrate in response to climate change and do so at different rates and dispersal directions, extra ecosystem disturbances might arise, leading to temporary local biodiversity increases – fuelling a net (global) downward trend.

Locally biodiversity might first increase under climate change, fuelling competition and increasing extinctions
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 7: Species’ competition increases biodiversity loss predictions

Quickly migrating species can keep track of climate change by migrating along the optimum of their climate zone habitat. Paradoxically these species increase the pressure on slower dispersers, increasing their extinction risk. Overall, adding such complex interspecies interaction to models increases the biodiversity loss predictions as the result of climate change.

Accounting for species competition due to climate change, biodiversity loss forecasts increase
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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 6: Review & fact check Chasing Coral [EXCELLENT MOVIE – GO WATCH!]

  • “Over last 30 years 50% of coral has disappeared”

  • “Based on current trends, within the next 30 years annual bleaching will kill most of the world’s coral”

Earlier this month a new climate impact documentary was released, called Chasing Coral. As the name suggests, it’s all about coral reefs – and was made by the same director as Chasing Ice (another highly recommended documentary film about the effects of climate change – on big glaciers).

Climate documentary Chasing Coral review & fact check: go watch that movie!We watched Chasing Coral yesterday evening and – as we are a science website with a special interest in the ecological effects of climate change, thought it might be good to publish a short fact check – to see if the statements that are made in the documentary are in line with scientific consensus.

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Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 5: What are the IPCC predictions for biodiversity loss?

Climate change is a direct disturbing factor to ecosystem health. It also leads to geographical biome shifts and therefore forced species migrations. Invasive species and food chain disturbances can lead to plagues, creating further ecosystem damage. All these factors work synergistically with other current and future ecology stressing trends, like deforestation and ocean acidification, which makes it difficult to model and project biodiversity decline – yet all the more valuable to take notice of scientific attempts to come up with actual figures.

Ecological effects of climate change according to IPCC AR5 (2014)
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