It’s no secret that man-made climate change is leading us into a new mass extinction event that is expected to impact many animal and plant species. In fact, some studies have concluded that some species are already going extinct. If those revelations made you sad, this next bit is not going to be easy to hear: a new study from the University of Arizona has revealed that 47 percent of surveyed plant and animal species are already experiencing local extinction events.
Climate change is upsetting the fragile balance in many ecosystems, and it has pushed many species to migrate toward colder and higher-elevation locales. Many places where certain animals and plants previously thrived have now been abandoned by those species. In this new study, researchers looked at range-shift studies of flora and fauna and discovered that among 976 plant and animal species studied, more than 450 are experiencing local extinction events.
These have been most prevalent in the warmest parts of the ranges of these species, but the new study didn’t only look at local extinctions based on range. The researchers also studied the frequency of local extinctions with respect to region, habitat, and groups of organisms. For habitats and groups, the number was also nearly half, but the findings varied across regions, with tropical regions twice as likely to have local extinctions as temperate ones.
The study is particularly alarming since global temperature increases have not yet broken 1°C (1.8°F). Scientists expect that milestone to be passed soon, and the limits set by the Paris Agreement are between 1.5°C and 2°C (2.7°F and 3.6°F).
How many more species will be killed off if temperatures increase that significantly is impossible to predict, and that’s not even accounting for the effects of climate change. Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and warming ocean temperatures will not only affect the normal functioning of the planet, but also strain the resources available for every species that lives on it.
Thankfully, efforts are being make all around the globe to combat this threat. Agencies like NASA have increased the number of Earth studies that try to track the planet’s changing climate patterns. Political efforts like the Paris agreement show that governments are willing to take action, and technological developments in areas like materials science and clean energy are assuring that the advancements of the future will be based on eco-friendly materials and methods.