Animals in tropical and Mediterranean areas are the most sensitive to climate change and land use pressures, finds a new study by University College London (UCL) researchers. The findings, published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, show how extinction risks are not evenly distributed worldwide, and suggest that large declines in tropical biodiversity are likely to occur imminently.
Global biodiversity is undergoing rapid declines, driven in large part by changes to land use and climate. Global models help us to understand the consequences of environmental changes for biodiversity, but tend to neglect important geographical variation in the sensitivity of biodiversity to these changes. Here we test whether biodiversity responses to climate change and land-use change differ among biomes (geographical units that have marked differences in environment and species composition). We find the strongest negative responses to both pressures in tropical biomes and in the Mediterranean. A further analysis points towards similar underlying drivers for the sensitivity to each pressure: we find both greater reductions in species richness in the types of land use most disturbed by humans and more negative predicted responses to climate change in areas of lower climatic seasonality, and in areas where a greater proportion of species are near their upper temperature limit. Within the land most modified by humans, reductions in biodiversity were particularly large in regions where humans have come to dominate the land more recently. Our results will help to improve predictions of how biodiversity is likely to change with ongoing climatic and land-use changes, pointing toward particularly large declines in the tropics where much future agricultural expansion is expected to occur. This finding could help to inform the development of the post-2020 biodiversity framework, by highlighting the under-studied regions where biodiversity losses are likely to be greatest.
Journal Reference: Tim Newbold, Philippa Oppenheimer, Adrienne Etard, Jessica J. Williams. Tropical and Mediterranean biodiversity is disproportionately sensitive to land-use and climate change. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01303-0