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Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss


Climate change is expected to have significant influences on terrestrial biodiversity at all system levels, including species-level reductions in range size and abundance, especially amongst endemic species1,2,3,4,5,6. However, little is known about how mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions could reduce biodiversity impacts, particularly amongst common and widespread species. Our global analysis of future climatic range change of common and widespread species shows that without mitigation, 57±6% of plants and 34±7% of animals are likely to lose ≥50% of their present climatic range by the 2080s. With mitigation, however, losses are reduced by 60% if emissions peak in 2016 or 40% if emissions peak in 2030. Thus, our analyses indicate that without mitigation, large range contractions can be expected even amongst common and widespread species, amounting to a substantial global reduction in biodiversity and ecosystem services by the end of this century. Prompt and stringent mitigation, on the other hand, could substantially reduce range losses and buy up to four decades for climate change adaptation.

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Figure 1: Global greenhouse gas emissions and temperature rise in the AVOID scenarios.
Figure 2: Proportion of species losing ≥50% of their range by the 2080s under various dispersal and mitigation scenarios.
Figure 3: Species richness in the 2080s.

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We thank the Met Office Hadley Centre and the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change for use of the emission scenarios produced for the AVOID project. We also thank the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), in particular T. Robertson, for the support provided during the completion of the analyses presented here. A portion of the funding for the Wallace Initiative came from a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to World Wildlife Fund, US. We wish to acknowledge S. Raper’s contribution to the production of the probabilistic climate model. We thank M. Brown at James Cook University for technical assistance. J.A.W. was financially supported, in part, by ARC Discovery Grant DP110104186. J.R-V. and A.J. were partly financially supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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J.P. assembled the team, coordinated and advised. R.W. generated and provided the climate projections in collaboration with T.J.O. and J.L. J.R-V. cleaned and processed the GBIF data. R.W., J.V., J.P., L.P.S., A.J. and S.E.W. designed the model experiments. J.V. performed the model experiments and analysis. R.W., J.V., J.A.W., J.R-V. and J.P. wrote the paper. I.A. facilitated and advised on computational issues surrounding modelling and data storage.

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Correspondence to R. Warren.

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Warren, R., VanDerWal, J., Price, J. et al. Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss. Nature Clim Change 3, 678–682 (2013).

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