UCLA life scientists provide important new details on how climate change will affect interactions between species in research published online May 21 in the Journal of Animal Ecology. This knowledge, they say, is critical to making accurate predictions and informing policymakers of how species are likely to be impacted by rising temperatures.
"There is a growing recognition among biologists that climate change is affecting how species interact with one another, and that this is going to have very important consequences for the stability and functioning of ecosystems," said the senior author of the research, Van Savage, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of biomathematics at UCLA. "However, there is still a very limited understanding of exactly what these changes will be. Our paper makes progress on this very important question."
Climate change is causing global increases in mean temperature, as well as more fluctuations and greater variability in temperature. Growing evidence suggests these changes are altering when and how species interact, and even which species are able to interact without going extinct, Savage said.
Already, climatic warming is rapidly altering the timing and rate of flowering in plants, as well as breeding and migration in animals changes that are likely to disrupt interactions between species.
"These changes may bring about novel and potentially unstable species interactions by causing warm-adapted species to seek out geographic regions and to experience seasonal periods that have historically been too cold for them until temperatures begin to rise," said lead author Anthony Dell, a former UCLA postdoctoral researcher now at Germany's University of Gottingen.
Such changes could destabilize entire ecosystems, such as rainforests or coral reefs, said co-author Samraat Pawar, a former UCLA postdoctoral researcher currently at the University of Chicago, w
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University of California - Los Angeles