Extinction risk from climate change

Author: Thomas, C. D., Cameron, A., Green, R. E., Bakkenes, M., Beaumont, L. J., Collingham, Y. C., Erasmus, B. F., de Siqueira, M. F., Grainger, A., Hannah, L., Hughes, L., Huntley, B., van Jaarsveld, A. S., Midgley, G. F., Miles, L., Ortega-Huerta, M. A., Townsend, Phillips, O. L. & Williams, S. E.
Date Published: January 2004

Nature 427

Climate change over the past ~30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species1,2 and has been implicated in one species-level extinction3. Using projections of species' distributions for future climate scenarios, we assess extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20 of the Earth's terrestrial surface. Exploring three approaches in which the estimated probability of extinction shows a powerlaw relationship with geographical range size, we predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming scenarios for 2050, that 15-37% of species in our sample of regions and taxa will be 'committed to extinction'. When the average of the three methods and two dispersal scenarios is taken, minimal climate-warming scenarios produce lower projections of species committed to extinction (~18) than mid-range (~24) and maximumchange (~35) scenarios. These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.