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Sea level rise: Jeopardy for terrestrial biodiversity on islands
Date:4/9/2013

Terrestrial species on low-lying islands and coastal regions are vulnerable to sea level rise due to climate-change, the most vulnerable species being endemics with limited ranges and rare species that are endangered already. That is the key message of a study by Florian Wetzel and colleagues of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology (KLIVV) of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna) and Walter Jetz of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, USA.

The new study is the first of its kind in terms of geographic scope as it covers the entire Southeast Asian and Pacific region with more than 12,000 islands and the distribution of more than 3,000 vertebrate species (birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals). It is also the first study to use data in the high spatial resolution of 90 metres to address this problem. Compared to previous research the predictions therefore are particularly accurate. "The high data quality with which we were able to work constitutes a quantum leap of precision", explains co-author Helmut Beissmann of KLIVV.

The model calculations show how islands and atolls in the study region will lose large parts of their land area and also that some islands will even become completely submerged. Wetzel and his colleagues predict that even with a sea level rise of one metre which is expected within the current century, one per cent of the land mass of the study area will be lost on average. Many Pacific islands lie only a few metres above sea level today, and a sea level rise of just one meter would translate into a loss of close to four per cent of their land area. What was surprising to find was the enormous variation in the vulnerability of different island groups. "Some Pacific atolls stand to lose one third of their land area with sea level rise of just one meter, and the species living there would be seriously at risk", explains study author Florian Wetzel. "In cont
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Contact: Prof. Dustin Penn
dustin.penn@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-148-909-15823
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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