Sunday, July 14, 2013

Evolution Takes Time. Evolutionary Adaptation Takes Far More Time Than Climate Change Allows.

Many species of plants and animals will face extinction because they cannot evolve in time to adapt to the rapid onslaught of climate change.   The pace of current global warming is simply too quick for natural or evolutionary adaptation.

A study by researchers at the University of Arizona finds that it takes up to a million years for species to evolve to a 1C degree temperature change.

Using data from 540 living species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, [Professor John]Wiens and colleagues compared their rates of evolution with the rates of climate change projected for the end of this century. The results, published online in the journal Ecology Letters, show that most land animals will not be able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. Many species face extinction, as a result.

"We found that, on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1C per million years," Wiens explained. "But if global temperatures are going to rise by about four degrees over the next 100 years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species."

The study indicates there is simply not enough time for species to change their morphologies – for example, by altering their bodies' shapes so they hold less heat – to compensate for rising heat levels. Too many generations of evolutionary change are required. Nor is moving habitat an option for many creatures. "Consider a species living on the top of a mountain," says Wiens. "If it gets too warm or dry up there, they can't go anywhere."

1 comment:

Purple library guy said...

Mind you, many creatures can move. We've already seen quite a bit of evidence of ranges shifting northwards.
On the other hand, the tendency for human development to chop habitat up makes it tougher. And at the rate things are going, some of the longer lived/slower growing trees may simply have life cycles too long to be able to even move fast enough to keep up!