Simulação de mudança climática mostra quais animais podem suportar a adversidade

quinta-feira, outubro 06, 2011

Climate Change Simulations Show Which Animals Can Take the Heat

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2011) — Species' ability to overcome adversity goes beyond Darwin's survival of the fittest. Climate change has made sure of that. In a new study based on simulations examining species and their projected range, researchers at Brown University argue that whether an animal can make it to a final, climate-friendly destination isn't a simple matter of being able to travel a long way. It's the extent to which the creatures can withstand rapid fluctuations in climate along the way that will determine whether they complete the journey.

The speckled black salamander, one of the species studied, could expand its current range (orange) into new territory (gray). Climate change, however, will put the new areas beyond the salamander's reach. (Credit: Sax Lab, Brown University)

In a paper in Ecology Letters, Regan Early and Dov Sax examined the projected "climate paths" of 15 amphibians in the western United States to the year 2100. Using well-known climate forecasting models to extrapolate decades-long changes for specific locations, the researchers determined that more than half of the species would become extinct or endangered. The reason, they find, is that the climate undergoes swings in temperature that can trap species at different points in their travels. It's the severity or duration of those climate swings, coupled with the given creature's persistence, that determines their fate.

"Our work shows that it's not just how fast you disperse, but also your ability to tolerate unfavorable climate for decadal periods that will limit the ability of many species to shift their ranges," said Sax, assistant professor of biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "As a consequence, many species that aren't currently of conservation concern are likely to become endangered by the end of the century."

The researchers chose to study frogs, salamanders, and toads because their living areas are known and their susceptibility to temperature changes has been well studied. Based on that information, they modeled the migratory paths for each creature, estimating their travels to be about 15 miles per decade. The climate models showed fluctuations in temperatures in different decades severe enough that four creatures would become extinct, while four other species would become endangered at the least. The other seven would "fare OK," Early said, "but they all lose out a lot."

The temperature swings can cause a species to be stopped in its tracks, which means that it has to do double time when the climate becomes more favorable. "Instead of getting warmer, it can get cooler," said Early, the paper's lead author, of the climate forecasts. "That means that species can take two steps forward, but may be forced to take one step backward, because the climate may become unsuitable for them. Unfortunately, if they take a step back, they have to make up all of that ground. That's what causes the gaps in the climate path."

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Analysis of climate paths reveals potential limitations on species range shifts

Regan Early1,*, Dov F. Sax2

Article first published online: 28 SEP 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01681.x

Keywords: Anura; assisted migration; climate variability; dispersal; fundamental and realised niche; landscape ecology; population persistence; salamander; translocation

Ecology Letters (2011)


Forecasts of species endangerment under climate change usually ignore the processes by which species ranges shift. By analysing the ‘climate paths’ that range shifts might follow, and two key range-shift processes – dispersal and population persistence – we show that short-term climatic and population characteristics have dramatic effects on range-shift forecasts. By employing this approach with 15 amphibian species in the western USA, we make unexpected predictions. First, inter-decadal variability in climate change can prevent range shifts by causing gaps in climate paths, even in the absence of geographic barriers. Second, the hitherto unappreciated trait of persistence during unfavourable climatic conditions is critical to species range shifts. Third, climatic fluctuations and low persistence could lead to endangerment even if the future potential range size is large. These considerations may render habitat corridors ineffectual for some species, and conservationists may need to consider managed relocation and augmentation of in situ populations.