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Are current projections of climate change-impacts on biodiversity misleading?
Date:11/21/2007

This is the urgent question arising from the study Quaternary climate changes explain diversity among reptiles and amphibians, published in the journal Ecography.

Why is life on Earth not evenly distributed? Geographic patterns of species diversity and their underlying processes have intrigued scientists for centuries, and continue to spur scientific debate. Studies carried out over the past 20 years have led to the conclusion that species diversity is best predicted by contemporary patterns of energy and water, the so-called contemporary climate hypothesis. Because current climate gradients are correlated with past climate variability, it has also been suggested that current climate acts as a surrogate for evolutionary processes that have been triggered by past climate variability, giving rise to the historic climate hypothesis. Now, new high-resolution data on historic climate has allowed Dr Arajo in collaboration with Dr Rahbek and other colleagues to finally directly test the historic climate versus contemporary climate hypotheses of biological diversity. Their illuminating results are published in a recent paper in Ecography. Contrary to the expectations of many scientists they found that historic climate variability was a better predictor of reptilian and amphibian diversity in Europe than contemporary climate.

The lack of quantitative spatial data on variation in climate over historical time has prevented more rigorous testing of these diverging hypotheses, says Dr. Miguel B. Arajo from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC) in Madrid. As a consequence, the debate on the causes of diversity gradients has turned to some degree into a discussion of semantics.

Recent developments in general climate models have finally facilitated high resolution predictions of past climates. In collaboration with leading climatologists working on paleoclimate modeling in the United Kingdom, Drs. Arajo, Rahbek and colleagues provide the
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Contact: Davina Quarterman
davina.quarterman@oxon.blackwellpublishing.com
01-865-476-307
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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