Many Mammals At Risk From Climate Change, Study

By Amir Khan on May 15, 2012 11:15 AM EDT

Orangutans
Orangutans and other mammal species are at risk of dying out due to climate change, according to a new study. (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of mammal species will be unable to keep up with changing climate, according to a new study. Climate change will shrink the habitat range of nearly 90 percent of all mammals and many will be unable to find suitable new areas, researchers said.

Mammals in the Amazon, the Yucatan Peninsula and the southeastern United States are particularly at risk, and while some animals may thrive in the changed environments, up to 40 percent of mammals will be unable to migrate to new areas and will likely die out, according to the study.

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Researchers analyzed range predictions of 493 mammal species through 2100 and found in some cases, species would have to move at eight times their current pace to keep up with climate change.

"We could be underestimating the vulnerability of some species to climate change," Carrie Schloss, study author and ecologist at the University of Washington, told Discovery News. "There have been a lot of projections done on species' ranges and where they are projected to be in the future based on where the climate will be suitable, but most don't tell you whether species can get from where they are today to where the climate will be suitable."

Primates are at one of the highest risks, as they are sensitive to even small changes in the environment, researchers said. As climate change increases the temperature in their habitat, primates will have a difficult time finding new habitable areas.

"The primates will likely experience reductions in their range size, due to reductions in the area that will be climatically suitable in the future," Schloss told USA Today.

Animals such as armadillos, coyotes and moose are expected to keep up with the changing climate, researchers said, while moles and shrews will likely not be able to.

David Ackerly, an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, said researchers could use the study to focus conservation efforts and better understand the impact of climate change.

"Unfortunately, there is not a lot of good news in analyses of climate impacts," he told Discovery News. "Rapid change will be disruptive. The question is: Where will impacts be worse and what can we do?"         

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the study on Monday.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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