Brief Communications Arising | Published:

Extinction and climate change

Nature volume 482, pages E4E5 (23 February 2012) | Download Citation


Arising from F. He & S. P. Hubbell Nature 473, 368–371 ()(2011)10.1038/nature09985.

Statistical relationships between habitat area and the number of species observed (species–area relationships, SARs) are sometimes used to assess extinction risks following habitat destruction or loss of climatic suitability. He and Hubbell1 argue that the numbers of species confined to—rather than observed in—different areas (endemics–area relationships, EARs) should be used instead of SARs, and that SAR-based extinction estimates in the literature are too high. We suggest that He and Hubbell’s SAR estimates are biased, that the empirical data they use are not appropriate to calculate extinction risks, and that their statements about extinction risks from climate change2 do not take into account non-SAR-based estimates or recent observations. Species have already responded to climate change in a manner consistent with high future extinction risks.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    & Species–area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss. Nature 473, 368–371 (2011)

  2. 2.

    et al. Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427, 145–148 (2004)

  3. 3.

    Species–area relationships at small scales in continuum vegetation. J. Ecol. 91, 904–907 (2003)

  4. 4.

    Island Populations (Oxford Univ. Press, 1981)

  5. 5.

    & Recent ecological responses to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 12337–12342 (2011)

  6. 6.

    et al. Biodiversity conservation: Uncertainty in predictions of extinction risk/Effects of changes in climate and land use/Climate change and extinction risk (reply). Nature 430, (2004)

  7. 7.

    et al. Impacts of climate warming and habitat loss on extinctions at species’ low-latitude range boundaries. Glob. Change Biol. 12, 1545–1553 (2006)

  8. 8.

    et al. Changes to the elevational limits and extent of species ranges associated with climate change. Ecol. Lett. 8, 1138–1146 (2005)

  9. 9.

    et al. Erosion of lizard diversity by climate change and altered thermal niches. Science 328, 894–899 (2010)

  10. 10.

    et al. Asymmetric boundary shifts of tropical montane Lepidoptera over four decades of climate warming. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 20, 34–45 (2011)

  11. 11.

    et al. Extinction vulnerability of tropical montane endemism from warming and upslope displacement: a preliminary appraisal for the highest massif in Madagascar. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 1703–1720 (2008)

  12. 12.

    , & Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature 398, 611–615 (1999)

  13. 13.

    et al. Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439, 161–167 (2006)

  14. 14.

    et al. One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science 321, 560–563 (2008)

  15. 15.

    , , , & Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science 333, 1024–1026 (2011)

Download references

Author information


  1. *Department of Biology, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK.

    • Chris D. Thomas
    •  & Mark Williamson


  1. Search for Chris D. Thomas in:

  2. Search for Mark Williamson in:


C.D.T. and M.W. jointly conceived and wrote the communication.

Competing interests

Declared none.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chris D. Thomas.

About this article

Publication history





Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing