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: Precise measurements of microbial ecosystems

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Surrogate sushi: Japan biotech for bluefin tuna

2 hours ago

Of all the overfished fish in the seas, luscious, fatty bluefin tuna are among the most threatened. Marine scientist Goro Yamazaki, who is known in this seaside community as "Young Mr. Fish," is working to ...

Recommended for you

Precise measurements of microbial ecosystems

37 minutes ago

The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) has succeeded for the first time in describing the complex relationships within an ecosystem in unprecedented detail. For their work, carried out in collaboration ...

Warming world may spell bad news for honey bees

10 hours ago

Researchers have found that the spread of an exotic honey bee parasite -now found worldwide - is linked not only to its superior competitive ability, but also to climate, according to a new study published ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

11 hours ago

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

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.