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Climate change may threaten more than one million species with extinction

January 7, 2004 (Washington, DC) Climate change could drive more than a quarter of land animals and plants into extinction, according to a major new study published in tomorrow's edition of the journal Nature.

The study estimates that climate change projected to take place between now and the year 2050 will place 15 to 37 percent of all species in several biodiversity-rich regions at risk of extinction. The scientists believe there is a high likelihood of extinctions due to climate change in other regions, as well.

Scientists studied six regions around the world representing 20 percent of the planet's land area and projected the future distributions of 1,103 animal and plant species. Three different climate change scenarios were considered minimal, mid-range and maximum, as was the ability of some species to successfully "disperse," or move to a different area, thus preventing climate change-induced extinction. The study used computer models to simulate the ways species' ranges are expected to move in response to changing temperatures and climate. It represents the largest collaboration of scientists to ever study this problem.

"This study makes it clear that climate change is the most significant new threat for extinctions this century," said co-author Lee Hannah, Climate Change Biology Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International (CI). "The combination of increasing habitat loss, already recognized as the largest single threat to species, and climate change, is likely to devastate the ability of species to move and survive."

These forecasts are for species predicted to go extinct eventually based on climate change between now and 2050, but do not suggest that these species will go extinct by then.

The study concluded that the minimum expected, or inevitable, climate change scenarios for 2050 produce fewer projected extinctions (18% averaging across the differen
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Contact: Brad Phillips
b.phillips@conservation.org
202-912-1532
Conservation International
7-Jan-2004


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