Climate change

Climate change threat looms for many species

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 June, 2013, 3:47am

Many species of birds, amphibians and corals not now under threat will be at risk from climate change and have been wrongly omitted from conservation planning, according to an international study.

The Amazon rainforest was among the places where ever more of birds and amphibians would be threatened as temperatures climbed, it said. Common corals off Indonesia would also be among the most vulnerable.

Overall, up to 41per cent of all bird species, 29 per cent of amphibians and 22 per cent of corals were “highly climate-change vulnerable but are not currently threatened”, the team of scientists wrote in the journal PLOS ONE.

“It was a surprise,” said Wendy Foden, of the global species programme of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who led the study. Experts had expected far more overlap between species threatened now and those vulnerable to global warming.

Conservation priorities should be revised to take account of the emerging climate risks, for instance to decide where to locate protected areas for wildlife, the scientists wrote.

“Climate change is not the biggest threat, yet,” Foden said. Loss of habitats driven by a rising human population, overexploitation and invasive species were now the main causes of extinctions, the study said.

It drew on the work of more than 100 scientists around the world. The IUCN groups governments, scientists and environmental groups.

Birds including the emperor penguin and the little owl and amphibians such as Rose’s rain frog or the imitator salamander, none of which were currently threatened, were among those most likely to be at risk as temperatures rose.