Ecosystems, Plants & Animals on the Move, but Fast Enough?

Some species are already on the move because of climate change, but a lot more is needed for species & ecosystems to survive.

A new study by the California Academy of Scientists attempts to estimate how fast species and ther ecosystems will have to move to keep up with climate change. On average, the team of scientists have concluded that ecosystems will have to shift at a rate of 0.42 kilometers (or about a quarter mile) per year.

There are differences across all the different ecosystems, of course. And there are human factors that will come into play as well.


Mountainous habitats won’t have to move so quickly, since the temperature changes much more quickly moving up or down a mountain compared to a flat ecosystem. Ecosystems such as flooded grasslands and savannahs, mangroves, and deserts will have to move at a much quicker pace.

Healy Hamilton, Director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences, mentions another important finding, that 92% of currently protected areas set up to preserve biodiversity are not expected to be the same ecosystem in 100 years time.

Healy says, “When we look at residence times for protected areas, which we define as the amount of time it will take current climate conditions to move across and out of a given protected area, only 8% of our current protected areas have residence times of more than 100 years. If we want to improve these numbers, we need to both reduce our carbon emissions and work quickly toward expanding and connecting our global network of protected areas.”

Habitats will also run into problems when they run into human developments. Fragmentation and inability to migrate across or around large human development areas may cause even more survival difficulties for habitats and their species.

These findings and conclusions by scientists from the Carnegie Institute of Science, Climate Central, and U.C. Berkeley were published in the December 24th issue of Nature.

via ScienceDaily

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2) 45 Species of Galapagos Islands Extinct or Facing Extinction due to Overfishing and Climate Change
3) Atlantic Ocean is Rising Faster than Previous 4,000 Years
4) Sea Level Rise of Up to 1.9 Meters (6′3″) This Century?
5) Ancestors of Mammals May Have Survived Largest Mass-Extinction in History in Antarctica

Image Credit 1: doug88888 via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 2: ViaMoi via flickr under a Creative Commons license

  • Michael R.

    It is more a movement in ‘time’, more than in ‘space’…interesting,; we don’t always think about ecosystems this way…

    …regarding this statement: “92% of currently protected areas set up to preserve biodiversity are not expected to be the same ecosystem in 100 years time.”

    …it is both a startling number, and, at the same time, to be expected….evolution in general–and the evolution of ecosystems specifically–is a product of dynamic and often complext interactions between flora, fauna, and forces of Nature….

    …what would be important to know here is how this projected rate of change compares to “control” ecosystems–those not subjected to climate forcing, as many are today. And, also, what the bio-diversity ‘rating’ (high or low) would be for these slower moving/changing ecosystems in 100 years time, etc.

    Thanks for this post on an over-looked aspect of Nature.