FunNature & AnimalWhich animals will best survive climate change?

Which animals will best survive climate change?


As the average global temperature continues to rise, extreme weather events (heavy rains, floods, prolonged droughts…) are becoming more frequent, and it is a scenario that is only destined to get worse in the coming years. decades . What will happen to the planet’s ecosystems?

“That’s the big question and the background to our study,” said biologist John Jackson . Jackson, along with fellow biologists Christie Le Coeur from the University of Oslo and Owen Jones from the University of Southern Denmark, have just published the results of their study in the journal eLife.


Ecosystems have to respond faster

The authors focused on 157 mammal species from around the world, analyzed population fluctuations and compared them with weather and climate data from 10 years ago. They then compared the population data with climate and weather data from the same periods.


How have the animals managed? Have species become more or less numerous? Did they have more or less offspring?

Through their research, scientists gained insight into how certain species have coped with severe weather. “We can see a clear pattern: Animals that live a long time and have few offspring are less vulnerable when extreme weather hits than animals that live a short time and have many offspring. Examples are llamas, long-lived bats and elephants versus mice, opossums and rare marsupials like the critically endangered brush-tailed bettong woylie, which is native to Australia ,” said Owen Jones.

That is, the species least affected by extreme weather have been: African elephant, Siberian tiger, chimpanzee, greater horseshoe bat, llama, vicuña, white rhinoceros, grizzly bear, American bison, klipspringer or rockhopper, Schreibers bat.

The most affected species

Azara grass mouse, olive grass mouse, graceful fat-tailed possum, Canadian lemming, tundra vole, arctic fox, stoat, common shrew, woylie, or arctic ground squirrel.

The conclusion is that larger and longer-lived animals are better able to cope with extreme weather conditions ; their ability to survive, reproduce and raise their young is not affected to the same extent as small, short-lived animals. They may, for example, invest their energy in offspring, or simply wait for better times when conditions are not hospitable.

But not only the meteorological phenomena affect the vulnerability of the species, but also the availability of food. Having no insects, flowers, or fruits means that their fat reserves will rapidly decrease, posing a risk to their lives.

Habitat destruction, poaching, pollution and invasive species are factors that threaten many animal species, in many cases even more than climate change.

The study gives insight into how animal species in general might deal with climate change as it continues to alter weather patterns and landscapes.

“We expect climate change to bring more extreme weather in the future. Animals will need to cope with this extreme weather as they always have. So our analysis helps predict how different animal species might respond to future climate change.” based on their general characteristics — even if we have limited data on their populations,” Jones concluded.

Referencia: “Life history predicts global population responses to the weather in terrestrial mammals” by John Jackson, Christie Le Coeur and Owen Jones, 1 July  2022, eLife.
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.74161

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