Letter

Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change

  • Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 205208 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/nclimate3223
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Abstract

Although it is widely accepted that future climatic change—if unabated—is likely to have major impacts on biodiversity1,2, few studies have attempted to quantify the number of species whose populations have already been impacted by climate change3,4. Using a systematic review of published literature, we identified mammals and birds for which there is evidence that they have already been impacted by climate change. We modelled the relationships between observed responses and intrinsic (for example, body mass) and spatial traits (for example, temperature seasonality within the geographic range). Using this model, we estimated that 47% of terrestrial non-volant threatened mammals (out of 873 species) and 23.4% of threatened birds (out of 1,272 species) may have already been negatively impacted by climate change in at least part of their distribution. Our results suggest that populations of large numbers of threatened species are likely to be already affected by climate change, and that conservation managers, planners and policy makers must take this into account in efforts to safeguard the future of biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

We thank L. Santini for stimulating discussions on phylogenetic models.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Global Mammal Assessment Program, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, Viale dell’Università 32, I-00185 Rome, Italy

    • Michela Pacifici
    • , Francesca M. Cassola
    •  & Carlo Rondinini
  2. Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research (CBER), Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Piero Visconti
  3. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

    • Piero Visconti
  4. BirdLife International, David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QZ, UK

    • Stuart H. M. Butchart
  5. Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

    • Stuart H. M. Butchart
  6. School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • James E. M. Watson
  7. Global Conservation Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10460, USA

    • James E. M. Watson

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Contributions

M.P., P.V., C.R. and J.E.M.W. designed the framework for the meta-analysis. M.P. conducted the analyses and collected the data for mammals. P.V. contributed to the analyses. S.H.M.B. provided data and examined the results for birds. F.M.C. collected data for birds. All authors contributed to the writing, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michela Pacifici.

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