Population declines of mammals and birds linked to rapid warming of climate

July 24, 2018, University College London
Black-tailed godwit's are also one of the species in decline in Germany and Senegal 2. Credit: Aron Tanti

The rate at which our planet is warming has been found to be a critical factor in explaining the decline of bird and mammal species, reveals new research by UCL and ZSL (Zoological Society of London). 

For the study, published today in Global Change Biology, 987 populations of 481 species across the globe were studied to investigate how the rate of and land-use change (from natural to human-dominated landscapes) interact to affect the rate of on mammals and , as well as whether species located in protected areas and body size had an influence. 

The rate at which our climate is warming was found to be the best explanation for the observed rate of .

Birds were one of the worst affected by rapid climate warming, with effects being twice as strong in birds over mammals, as well as populations located outside of protected areas being more severely impacted. 

Species such as the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) in Germany and Senegal, pink-footed Geese in Canada (Anser brachyrhynchus) and black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) in Tanzania were just some of the species highlighted to be in population decline.

Lead-author, Fiona Spooner from UCL Centre of Biodiversity & Environment Research said and ZSL's Institute of Zoology: "The reason we think birds might be worse off in particular is due to birds breeding seasons being particularly sensitive to temperature changes. We think this could be leading to a desynchronisation of their reproduction cycle, leading to the negative impacts we're seeing. Mammal breeding seasons are a lot more flexible, and this is reflected in the data."

This finding is crucial, because if the rate at which the climate warms, exceeds the maximum possible rate of animals being able to adapt to the changes in their environment - local extinctions of animals will start to become more prominent. The research stresses the urgency of understanding the vulnerability of animals to temperature increases and provides a snapshot of what may come to pass if we don't slow down climate change. 

Senior co-author, Dr Robin Freeman head of the Indicators and Assessment Unit at ZSL's Institute of Zoology said: "Our research shows that in areas where the rate of climate warming is worse, we see more rapid bird and population declines. Unless we can find ways to reduce future warming, we can expect these declines to be much worse."

"Importantly, our finding does not suggest that human land-use changes, such as for agriculture, development or deforestation do not play a role in the decline of birds and mammals, or that because the decline is climate change related, it's somehow something for future generations to deal with. Rather, this finding suggests that additional data including higher resolution landscape data is needed to understand the mechanisms driving these declines."

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate and Energy Policy at WWF said: "This report provides further evidence of the growing threat that climate change poses to our wildlife, not only around the world but also right here on our doorsteps such as bees and the much-loved puffin.

"That's why we urgently need the UK Government to take action to meet current targets to cut , but also to increase ambition to build a sustainable, -resilient future in which we restore nature, not destroy it." 

Explore further: Impact of climate change on mammals and birds 'greatly under-estimated'

More information: Fiona E. B. Spooner et al. Rapid warming is associated with population decline among terrestrial birds and mammals globally, Global Change Biology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14361

Related Stories

Nature network hope for birds threatened by climate change

November 5, 2013

(Phys.org) —New research led by the British Trust for Ornithology and involving a University of York academic provides strong evidence that internationally important British bird populations are being affected by climate ...

Birds on top of the world, with nowhere to go

July 20, 2016

Climate change could make much of the Arctic unsuitable for millions of migratory birds that travel north to breed each year, according to a new international study published today in Global Change Biology.

Recommended for you

How plants bind their green pigment chlorophyll

October 19, 2018

Chlorophyll is the pigment used by all plants for photosynthesis. There are two versions, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. These are structurally very similar to one another but have different colors, blue-green and yellowish ...

16 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

V4Vendicar
1 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2018
I really don't care. Do you?
SCVGoodToGo
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2018
Climate change caused ecosystem decline potentially exacerbating climate change? Yes, I care. Remember these are the creatures plants depend on to spread seeds.
rrwillsj
4 / 5 (4) Jul 24, 2018
Ahh v4v, you are asking the wrong question. Since you take pride in being a self-absorbed, ignorant prat with a gluttony of entitlement & affluenza? Coddled & protected, supported & subsidized your entire useless life.

The question you should be asking is: When the Matricide crashes upon us. With the Eco-death of the only Living World.

When you are stumbling across the wasteland. Frantically seeking a hidehole. Banging uselessly upon the bunker entrances. Begging for admittance?

The correct question is, why would anyone care about you? The morlocks got what they need. Why do they need you? Since all you know is how to gorge & swill without ever producing or creating.

Good News! Yes, yes it is. When the trump-voting zombie horde catches up to you? They will turn away in disgusted disappointment. That you have no brains for them to eat.

Since you reject the needs of all others? Yourself in turn will find yourself to be rejected by morlocks & zombies.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2018
So colder is a good thing, oh, okay. You don't even have to read the article to see they desire a conclusion, then write a paper with the concluding desire.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2018
V4V
I really don't care
And your point? It is easy not to care. The patient I worked with this morning does not care. She is 60 years old, and obese. She has diabetes, hypertension, neuropathy, etc. She walks with a walker, and has difficulty getting up out of a chair, let alone walking across the room. List of medications was 2 pages long. A life time of not caring about anything.

Odd question for me is - why would you want to write a comment on a science site - advertising that you don't care? Seems to me that science is at it's heart, an endeavor for people who care. Why don't you just find a reddit blog, for people who don't care - and you can exchange comments all day about not caring...
greenonions1
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2018
old_C_Code
You don't even have to read the article
Good point there - why would you bother to read an article - when you can make an ill informed comment - based on the title? So much easier!

Noting that scientists are very alarmed at this point about the loss of species in our world - https://bigthink....al-speed
It makes sense to me to be interested in why this is happening. Pretty important topic for the future of our planet.
barakn
5 / 5 (8) Jul 24, 2018
So colder is a good thing, oh, okay. You don't even have to read the article to see they desire a conclusion, then write a paper with the concluding desire. -Old_C_Code

Actually you do need to read the paper, because they didn't state that colder was better, or that warmer wasn't better. Words like 'rapid' and 'rate' were the big clue that it is the high RATE of warming that is the problem. You clearly drew your own, erroneous conclusion.
snoosebaum
1 / 5 (5) Jul 24, 2018
is there anything left thats not linked to 'globull warming '?

how about this fakery ?, all good for the cause

http://www.drroys...ception/
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2018
And yet 50x as many humans die due to exposure to cold as warmth. Do we really buy this nonsense that suggests animals don't follow the same track?
Ojorf
3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 25, 2018
Vendicar, Old_C_Code & snoosebaum (where is anti?), how can you NOT realize how stupid your comments are, how willfully ignorant. I just hope you are a bunch of old fogeys too set in your ways to accept reality when it hits you in the face and not as actively evil as you appear to be.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2018
Thorium
Do we really buy this nonsense that suggests animals don't follow the same track?


Do you accept that species extinction is a part of the natural biological world, and has been throughout the earth's history?
Extinction is a natural process. Scientists estimate that up to 98% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct.
From - https://www.scien...tinction Do you accept that this process is happening - whether the world is in an ice age, or in a warmer period such as the Neoproterozoic?
So then wouldn't it follow that the process being addressed today is not about animals dying of the heat, or the cold, but a much longer scale process - affected by many overlapping factors (evolution). So don't you think your comment is pretty uninformed?
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2018
You are just naive, you'll believe anything. Tell me when Miami is underwater. You're a bunch of young arrogant buffoons, without the knowledge to make anyone anything.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (4) Jul 25, 2018
Old_C_Code
You are just naïve
Who is' you'? And what is your basis for calling 'you' naïve? You (I mean Old_C_Code) have refuted nothing - and supplied no evidence of any disagreement you may have with today's article. It would seem to me that you (Old_C_Code) are the one who lacks critical thinking skills. Sea levels are currently rising at about 3mm per year. This rate is accelerating - but even with acceleration - it is going to be a long time before Miami is under water. Perhaps many hundreds of years. Why is this your metric for accusing people of being naïve. Please don't bring up Al Gore - he is not a scientist - and should not be used in terms of validating scientific information.
snoosebaum
1 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2018
sea level is rising so fast Mars will be underwater !
snoosebaum
1 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2018
the complete list , lets be thorough
http://www.number...list.htm
TrollBane
5 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2018
Old_C_Code is throwing an error. It only seems to run well on old systems.

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.