Global warming capable of sparking mass species extinctions

Washington, D.C. The Earth could see massive waves of species extinctions around the world if global warming continues unabated, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Conservation Biology.

Given its potential to damage areas far away from human habitation, the study finds that global warming represents one of the most pervasive threats to our planet's biodiversity in some areas rivaling and even surpassing deforestation as the main threat to biodiversity.

The study expands on a much-debated 2004 paper published in the journal Nature that suggested a quarter of the world's species would be committed to extinction by 2050 as a result of global warming. This latest study picks up where the Nature paper left off, incorporating critiques and suggestions from other scientists while increasing the global scope of the research to include diverse hotspots around the world. The results reinforce the massive species extinction risks identified in the 2004 study.

"Climate change is rapidly becoming the most serious threats to the planet's biodiversity," said lead author Dr. Jay Malcolm, an assistant forestry professor at the University of Toronto. "This study provides even stronger scientific evidence that global warming will result in catastrophic species loss across the planet."

Using vegetation models, the research is one of the first attempts to assess the potential effects of climate change on terrestrial biodiversity on a global scale rather than just looking at individual species. Scientists looked specifically at the effect that climate change would have on 25 of the 34 globally outstanding "biodiversity hotspots" areas containing a large number of species unique to these regions alone, yet facing enormous threats.

"It isn't just polar bears and penguins that we must worry about anymore," said Lee Hannah, co-author of the study and senior fellow for climate change at Conservation International. "

Contact: Marshall Maher
Conservation International

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