Climate change could trigger 'boom and bust' population cycles leading to extinction

Apr 16, 2007

Climate change could trigger "boom and bust" population cycles that make animal species more vulnerable to extinction. , according to Christopher C. Wilmers, an assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Favorable environmental conditions that produce abundant supplies of food and stimulate population booms appear to set the stage for population crashes that occur when several "good years" in a row are followed by a bad year. "It's almost paradoxical, because you'd think a large population would be better off, but it turns out they're more vulnerable to a drop in resources," says Wilmers.

Understanding how environmental changes influence fluctuations in animal populations is crucial to predicting and mitigating the influence of global climate change. In a paper that appears in the May issue of The American Naturalist, Wilmers describes a powerful new mathematical model that evaluates how climate and resources interact with populations, including a fine-grained analysis of impacts on juveniles, reproducing adults, and adults.

In areas where climate change leads to more "good years," with the occasional poor year still occurring, populations will fluctuate dramatically and be more prone to extinction as a result, said Wilmers. Highly prolific species will be particularly vulnerable to such fluctuations because their populations will build up most rapidly, noted Wilmers, a vertebrate conservation ecologist. Dramatic population fluctuations make species more vulnerable to extinction due to disease, inbreeding, and other causes; in addition, each crash reduces the genetic diversity of a species, lowering its ability to adapt and making it more prone to extinction.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: EU, others: Catch plans for Bluefin tuna threaten recovery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Estimating flood behaviour on a global scale

Feb 12, 2015

Characterising flood behaviour for any river in the world is now becoming a possibility, according to new research from the University of Bristol published this month in Water Resources Research.

How will ocean acidification impact marine life?

Feb 03, 2015

Many marine organisms—such as coral, clams, mussels, sea urchins, barnacles, and certain microscopic plankton—rely on equilibrated chemical conditions and pH levels in the ocean to build their calcium-based ...

Invasive species in the Great Lakes by 2063

Jan 29, 2015

The Great Lakes have been invaded by more non-native species than any other freshwater ecosystem in the world. In spite of increasing efforts to stem the tide of invasion threats, the lakes remain vulnerable, ...

Long dry spell doomed Mexican city 1,000 years ago

Jan 28, 2015

Archaeologists continue to debate the reasons for the collapse of many Central American cities and states, from Teotihuacan in Mexico to the Yucatan Maya, and climate change is considered one of the major ...

Recommended for you

A molecular compass for bird navigation

Feb 27, 2015

Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.