Research in Nature Climate Change uses data on 50,000 common plants and animals to predict worldwide range losses without urgent action to limit emissions
Climate change could dramatically reduce the geographic ranges of thousands of common plant and animal species during this century, according to research using data made freely available online through GBIF.
The information on the current location of common species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians was taken from around 170 million individual data records published freely online through GBIF by some 200 different institutions around the world. The records include museum specimens, data from scientific expeditions and the observations of thousands of volunteer ‘citizen scientists’.
One of the co-authors of the study, Jeff Price of the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, United Kingdom, said: "Without free and open access to massive amounts of data such as those made available online through GBIF, no individual researcher is able to contact every country, every museum, every scientist holding the data and pull it all together. So this research would not be possible without GBIF and its global community of researchers and volunteers who make their data freely available."
The lead author of the study, Dr Rachel Warren, also from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences and the Tyndall Centre, said: "While there has been much research on the effect of climate change on rare and endangered species, little has been known about how an increase in global temperature will affect more common species."Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world. This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides. The good news is that our research provides crucial new evidence of how swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases can prevent the biodiversity loss by reducing the amount of global warming to 2 degrees Celsius rather than 4 degrees. This would also buy time – up to four decades - for plants and animals to adapt to the remaining 2 degrees of climate change."