Which Animals Are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change? This Study Provides Predictions
New research says that protecting ecological biodiversity rather than single species is the key to avoiding mass extinction.
Climate change isn't a far-flung concept—it's here, and so are its accompanying effects. For humans, global warming manifests as damage to existing land and infrastructure (heat islands, wildfires, flooding), food shortages due to drought, deforestation, and instances of extreme weather, and more. But what about the animal kingdom—how will different beings survive these ever-increasing shifts?
According to a new study published in journal Science Advances, determining which animals are the most likely to survive climate change depends on two predominant factors: adaptability and interconnectedness.
Which Animals Will Survive Climate Change?
We already know that all of our planet's creatures are under duress: Late last year, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)'s annual Living Planet Report revealed that wildlife populations have decreased by 69% in less than 50 years.
Now, new research predicts a 17.6% reduction of global vertebrate diversity by 2100, a number which will disrupt ecosystems and increase extinctions by up to 184.2%.
To weather a changing climate, animals will need to adapt. Those reliant on one food source, or those who require a wealth of food and resources, are unlikely to survive.
Resilience will also play a key role. According to a previous study from lead researcher and ecologist Giovanni Strona, tardigrades (micro-animals also known as water bears or moss piglets) have the potential to survive a supernova, but their numbers decline with the loss of surrounding species.
In short, the interplay of Earth's ecosystems is complicated, essential, and unpredictable, and the loss of one species can result in the loss of countless others. A loss of enough biodiversity is a self-feeding pattern that could lead to mass extinction—and even the strongest tiny moss piglets need neighbors to thrive.
What Can You Do to Help?
Strategy and adaptability are important lessons for us, too. In addition to a worldwide curbing of emissions and waste, wildlife conversation efforts will need to take living networks into account when making strategic decisions.
"Unless conservation practitioners rapidly start to incorporate the complexity of ecological interactions and their role in extinction processes in their planning, averting the ongoing biodiversity crisis will become an unachievable target," says the study.
The takeaway? Looking at the bigger picture and how everything (and everyone) works together is the only way to protect the planet.
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