Extinction risk from climate change

Chris D. Thomas*, Alison Cameron, Rhys E. Green, Michel Bakkenes, Linda J. Beaumont, Yvonne C. Collingham, Barend F N Erasmus, Marinez Ferreira De Siqueira, Alan Grainger, Lee Hannah, Lesley Hughes, Brian Huntley, Albert S. Van Jaarsveld, Guy F. Midgley, Lera Miles, Miguel A. Ortega-Huerta, A. Townsend Peterson, Oliver L. Phillips, Stephen E. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4614 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Climate change over the past ∼30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species and has been implicated in one species-level extinction. 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 power-law 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 maximum-change (∼35%) scenarios. These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-148
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume427
Issue number6970
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2004

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