Letter | Published:

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

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 678682 (2013) | Download Citation


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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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).

Author information


  1. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • R. Warren
    •  & J. Price
  2. Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • J. VanDerWal
    • , J. A. Welbergen
    • , I. Atkinson
    • , L. P. Shoo
    •  & S. E. Williams
  3. eResearch Centre, Division of Research and Innovation, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • J. VanDerWal
    •  & I. Atkinson
  4. International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), AA6713 Cali, Colombia

    • J. Ramirez-Villegas
    •  & A. Jarvis
  5. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), c/o CIAT, AA6713 Cali, Colombia

    • J. Ramirez-Villegas
    •  & A. Jarvis
  6. Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS), School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • J. Ramirez-Villegas
  7. Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • T. J. Osborn
  8. School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • L. P. Shoo
  9. Met Office Hadley Centre, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading EX1 3PB, UK

    • J. Lowe


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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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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to R. Warren.

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