ResearchBlogging.orgRapid climate change can cause species extinction. But if a species is highly mobile or wide-ranging, then that effect may be attenuated. And, more rapid climate change would be more serious a problem than less rapid climate change. Therefore, there should be a relationship between species mobility (migration) and the rate, or velocity, of climate change vis-a-vis extinction. This is a nice set of hypotheses which have been tested in a recent paper. The abstract:

The effects of climate change on biodiversity should depend in part on climate displacement rate (climate-change velocity) and its interaction with species’ capacity to migrate. We estimated Late Quaternary glacial-interglacial climate-change velocity by integrating macroclimatic shifts since the Last Glacial Maximum with topoclimatic gradients. Globally, areas with high velocities were associated with marked absences of small-ranged amphibians, mammals and birds. The association between endemism and velocity was weakest in the highly vagile birds and strongest in the weakly dispersing amphibians, linking dispersal ability to extinction risk due to climate change. High velocity was also associated with low endemism at regional scales, especially in wet and aseasonal regions. Overall, we show that low-velocity areas are essential refuges for Earth’s many small-ranged species.

The effect is stronger in the northern hemisphere, stronger in big flat places and attenuated on mountain ranges, and according to this paper, explains some of the variation we see in modern species distribution as an outcome of climate change sine the Last Glacial Maximum (ca 18,000-21,000 years ago). The study also looked at this effect separately in amphibians, mammals, and birds.

As you might expect, and the authors of the study predicted, with high velocity climate change, amphibians would take a worst hit, and birds would adapt better. That is what they found. (Among mammals, the bir-like mammals did better than the regular mammals as well.)

The paper, which came out in Science, has it’s own podcast! Click here.
Sandel, B., Arge, L., Dalsgaard, B., Davies, R., Gaston, K., Sutherland, W., & Svenning, J. (2011). The Influence of Late Quaternary Climate-Change Velocity on Species Endemism Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1210173