Tropical species are especially vulnerable to climate change, according to researchers

March 25, 2016
Timothy Perez and James Stroud demonstrate forestry techniques used to measure the long-term storage of carbon by trees.

Changes in temperature and weather patterns pose a serious threat to the millions of animal, plant and fungi species found in the tropics. In an article published in Science, lead authors and biology Ph.D. students Timothy Perez and James Stroud explain how species found in environments such as the tropics have lower tolerances to climate change. With greater amounts of thermally sensitive species than environments found at higher latitudes, the threat of global climate change puts tropical species at a greater risk of extinction than their temperate counterparts. The article is coauthored with biology professor Kenneth Feeley.

"The tropics are extremely important for society's well-being," Stroud said. "Rainforests absorb and produce oxygen, helping stabilize the world's climate. They also provide protection against floods and droughts and are a source of medicines and food. When climatic conditions change such that a can no longer live there then it is likely to go extinct unless it is able to move to a new area where its preferred climate persists. Widespread extinctions can destabilize entire ecosystems."

Perez and Stroud also identify gaps in scientific knowledge and suggest how future research may advance the understanding of how species respond to changes in temperature and climate. According to the researchers, a widespread lack of research in the tropics means much of what is known about how species adapt to temperature and climate is geographically biased towards the planet's temperate zones.

"What we know about thermal adaptation is biased in that most data is derived from vertebrates such as mammals and birds," Perez said. "We are working to correct these biases by collecting data for plants."

Perez and Stroud are tropical ecologists interested in understanding how factors such as climate change and competition may influence global extinction rates. Perez's dissertation focuses on how environmental changes influence where plant species live and interact with other organisms. Stroud is devoting his doctoral research to studying the evolution, interactions and community assembly patterns of Anolis lizards in the tropics.

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

More information: T. M. Perez et al. Thermal trouble in the tropics, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3343

Related Stories

Invasive lizard takes up residence in Bermuda

December 9, 2015

A non-native species of lizard has been discovered in Bermuda, a potential problem for the island's critically endangered Bermuda skink. The observation was made by Florida International University biology student James Stroud.

Recommended for you

The astonishing efficiency of life

November 17, 2017

All life on earth performs computations – and all computations require energy. From single-celled amoeba to multicellular organisms like humans, one of the most basic biological computations common across life is translation: ...

Unexpected finding solves 40-year old cytoskeleton mystery

November 17, 2017

Scientists have been searching for it for decades: the enzyme that cuts the amino acid tyrosine off an important part of the cell's skeleton. Researchers of the Netherlands Cancer Institute have now identified this mystery ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) Mar 25, 2016
The tropical species that are vulnerable are substandard and need to be eliminated like Obamacare eliminated substandard health insurance policies. Climate change is the Obamacare of evolution eliminating the unfit.
2 / 5 (4) Mar 25, 2016
These two jokers pictured here are Y2K jokes in their kid's history books.

A vague consensus of "could be" and "99% real" is a consensus of nothing and the last 35 years of climate action delay and debate proves it.
Were the science gods who also gave us fracking and germ warfare also only 99% sure the planet wasn't flat?
Climate change "belief" was pure modern day witch burning.

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.