Climate change could wipe out island species

Martin Harvey  WWF

Martin Harvey WWF

Turtles, elephants, tigers, snow leopards, giant pandas and polar bears will be among the much-loved animals hardest hit.

Climate change could eradicate up to half of the plant and animal species in some of the world's most naturally rich areas, making areas such as the Amazon "unrecognisable", a new WWF report has warned.

In the report, published on Wednesday in the Climate Change journal, researchers analysed the impact of climate change on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world's most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas.

Lead researcher Professor Rachel Warren, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, said: "Our research quantifies the benefits of limiting global warming to 2C for species in 35 of the world's most wildlife-rich areas".

Up to 90% of amphibians, 86% of birds and 80% of mammals potentially becoming locally extinct in the Miombo Woodlands, Southern Africa.

If temperature rises are limited to 2C, which would require further action from governments, the impact on wildlife would be lessened but still wide-ranging.

In the Mediterranean, 30 per cent of most species would be at risk of dying out, while more than a third (36 per cent) of plants could vanish.

Affected wildlife could include turtles, as warmer temperatures lead to more eggs hatching as females or failing to hatch altogether, while rising seas and storms can destroy nesting sites.

It explores a number of different climate change scenarios from a global mean temperature rise of 4.5°C (expected if the world fails to cut emissions at all) to a 2°C rise, the proposed upper limit for temperature increseases outlined in the Paris Agreement.

"We studied 80,000 species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and found that 50% of species could be lost from these areas without climate policy".

"However, if global warming is limited to 2C above pre-industrial levels, this could be reduced to 25%".

Dr Stephen Cornelius, from WWF UK, said of the report: 'This is a global problem, it shows that across 35 priority places scattered all over the world, all of them over the last 50 years, across all the seasons, have seen temperatures rise.

Earth Hour takes place on Saturday, 24 March at 8.30pm when millions of people across the world will turn off electric lights to show their commitment to reducing global emissions and protecting people and wildlife from the impacts of climate change.

'There's no area that will be unaffected, though there are some that are more vulnerable, and there are some areas that are more resilient than others'.

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