News

    Climate Change Threatens Heat-Intolerant Species

    Ice Age reptiles offer clues to survival in a warmer world

    The island of Lazaros in the central Aegean Sea is home to this Agean wall lizard - one of the species examined in the study.
    The island of Lazaros in the central Aegean Sea is home to this Agean wall lizard - one of the species examined in the study.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    Scientists are exploring the earth's ancient past for clues to how species today might respond to a warming climate and a landscape that's breaking apart.

    Results of the new study suggest many species will be lost as conditions worsen - and the species which will disappear first are those that are intolerant of northern heat.

    University of Michigan ecologist Johannes Foufopoulos looked at conditions in Greece 15,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, when scores of islands formed.

    "They became isolated as sea level rose," he says. "Essentially we have a system in which we have a natural process of habitat fragmentation, not by humans, but by rising sea levels."  

    Foufopoulos and his colleagues studied the extinction rates for 35 reptile species on 87 islands in the northeast Mediterranean Sea. He says comparing historic fossil records with present day distribution, the researchers were able to tell which species perished and when.

    University of Michigan vertebrate ecologist Johannes Foufopoulos with an Aegean wall lizard.
    University of Michigan vertebrate ecologist Johannes Foufopoulos with an Aegean wall lizard.

    "What we find is that islands today harbor many, many, many fewer species than the neighboring mainland. So we infer basically that species that used to be there have gone extinct." Northern-dwelling species that requireed cool and moist conditions didn't tolerate heat very well," he adds. "These were also disproportionally quick to disappear."

    In most cases reptiles disappeared on the smallest islands first, places where the habitat choices were most limited. Foufopoulos says the study provides clues to how wildlife today might respond to climate shifts and a landscape fragmented by roads and farms and buildings. "The unfortunate observation, the lessons here is that it is going to be pretty bad."

    Foufopoulos says the study is more than a look back in time. It also underscores the need to conserve land for species migration, either by setting it aside or by creating wildlife corridors that can help animals adapt as conditions change.

    "We absolutely need these species in order to survive because we depend on natural ecosystems to obtain our water, our food, our clean air. These services are being provided by natural species communities. We don't think about it, but our crops are pollinated by bees, for example. If we lose those bees because of degraded habitat and we've changed the climate, we won't be able to have crops."

    The study appears in the January edition of American Naturalist.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.