New research shows climate change will endanger many species previously believed to be not at risk

New research from the University of Aberdeen has shown that insects in high-latitude ecosystems such as Scotland are just as at risk from climate change as tropical species.

It was previously believed that insects in the tropics and deserts were the most at risk species from and that high-latitude species were not endangered. However a new study, which is published today in Nature Climate Change, has shown that only recently arrived high-latitude species, such as agricultural pests and disease vectors, will be able to withstand future levels of warming at high latitudes.

This is because these recently arrived species retain thermal tolerances to the warmer climates from which they originated. For example, insects such as fruitflies, mealworm beetles, and invasive termites have only recently colonized higher latitudes as a result of human activities, and these insects therefore have broad tolerances to warming which will buffer them against future climate change.

In contrast, species native to high latitudes will in fact suffer worse declines than comparable species in the tropics, because these endemic, high-latitude species have very narrow thermal tolerances (very low warming tolerances), similar to the low warming tolerances exhibited by threatened . However, the magnitude of climate warming is predicted to be greater at high latitudes than in the tropics. Some potentially threatened species included in this study include a wide range of rare and locally restricted beetle and moth species that serve critical functions for pollination and nutrient cycling in high latitude ecosystems.

Dr Lesley Lancaster from the University of Aberdeen carried out the study by re-examining published data on insect thermal tolerances, and identifying how these tolerances are affected by the historical patterns of range movements in these species.

She commented: "The result of this study is quite novel in that it has shown that climate change is a huge problem for a wide range of native species that we previously thought would be able to withstand temperature changes.

"These results have very important conservation implications, particularly for high-latitude ecosystems. It is important to realise that recently-cosmopolitan species, such as pests, will likely replace the more unique and valued high latitude species, if we do not do enough to mitigate climate change."

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More information: Lesley T. Lancaster. Widespread range expansions shape latitudinal variation in insect thermal limits, Nature Climate Change (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2945
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: New research shows climate change will endanger many species previously believed to be not at risk (2016, March 1) retrieved 21 September 2019 from
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Mar 01, 2016
The environment is our safety net, it keeps us alive, it makes our Oxygen, cleans out water, and provides with food. And we are killing it by cutting the individual cords one-buy-one. Non-scientists do not understand if you take out one part of an integrated life system, it affects all the rest. It will catch up with us, and then we will not look so smart.

Mar 01, 2016
This is probably true. A lot of species will be hurt and the change will benefit many other species at the same time. For instance, if we did not know of penguins, we would have thought it impossible for them to live through 6 months of sub freezing weather and then swim hundreds of miles to bring their young food from out in the ocean. And yet they do the impossible all the time, so for man to strut up and say what will happen with species during climate change is a little laughable.

Mar 02, 2016
You're an idiot if you think a warmer Alaska is a bad thing. The wildlife suffering that occurs in the winter is pure hell.

Mar 07, 2016
You're an idiot if you think a warmer Alaska is a bad thing. The wildlife suffering that occurs in the winter is pure hell.

Global warming only impacts Alaska. It's amazing. It's like targeted warming that only causes impacts in areas where it will be beneficial and nowhere else. The globe is Boston. The words "average" and "global" have no meaning. Everything is fine.

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