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Climate change causes high, but predictable, extinction risks
Date:2/26/2014

Judging the effects of climate change on extinction may be easier than previously thought, according to a paper published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Although widely used assessments of threatened species, such as the IUCN Red List, were not developed with the effects of climate change in mind, a study of 36 amphibian and reptile species endemic to the US has concluded that climate change may not be fundamentally different from other extinction threats in terms of identifying species in danger of extinction.

The new study, funded by NASA and led by Richard Pearson of UCL and, formerly, the American Museum of Natural History, and by Resit Akakaya of Stony Brook University in New York, identified factors that predispose species to high extinction risk due to climate change. By looking at pre-existing information on species of salamanders, turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards, the team hoped to create a blueprint for judging extinction risk in other species around the world.

Dr Richard Pearson (UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research) said: "Surprisingly, we found that most important factors such as having a small range or low population size are already used in conservation assessments. These new results indicate that current systems may be better able to identify species vulnerability to climate change than previously thought."

Through quantitative analysis the team found that across the reptiles and amphibians studied there was a 28% overall chance of extinction by 2100. In contrast, the risk of extinction without climate change was calculated to be less than 1%, suggesting that climate change will cause a dramatic increase in extinction risk for these taxonomic groups over the next century.

Dr Resit Akakaya of Stony Brook University said: "The bad news is that climate change will cause many extinctions unless species-specific conservation actions are taken; but the good new
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Contact: Siobhan Pipa
siobhan.pipa@ucl.ac.uk
44-020-767-99041
University College London
Source:Eurekalert

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