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Ecological responses to recent climate change

Abstract

There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments. The responses of both flora and fauna span an array of ecosystems and organizational hierarchies, from the species to the community levels. Despite continued uncertainty as to community and ecosystem trajectories under global change, our review exposes a coherent pattern of ecological change across systems. Although we are only at an early stage in the projected trends of global warming, ecological responses to recent climate change are already clearly visible.

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Figure 1: Spatial variability of annual trends in temperature and precipitation since 1976 relative to 1961 to 1990 normals (ref. 1, modified).
Figure 2: Anomalies of different phenological phases in Germany correlate well with anomalies of mean spring air temperature T and NAO index (by P. D. Jones, http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/nao.htm).
Figure 3: Vegetation shift from indigenous deciduous to exotic evergreen broad-leaved vegetation in southern Switzerland.
Figure 4: Different environments and their responses to warming.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. A. Pounds for suggestions and A. Hoppe for assistance with graphics design. Data on spring arrival of birds in northern Germany were provided by O. Hüppop. G.-R.W. received funding from the Swiss NSF and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich, E.P. acknowledges the financial support of the NSF, A.M. is funded by the 5th FP EU-project POSITIVE and C.P. acknowledges the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CEFE, Montpellier).

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Walther, GR., Post, E., Convey, P. et al. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416, 389–395 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/416389a

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