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Trouble In Paradise: Global Warming A Greater Danger To Tropical Species

ScienceDaily – May 6, 2008

A team of University of Washington scientists has been studying the insect population of the tropics and concluded that an increase in temperature could many species at risk of extinction. I give more credence to these types of studies to articles on climate models since, in this case, it is possible to do some true cause and effect analysis as well as maintain a control group. The problem with climate models is that they are simply mathematical equations that are developed by mathematicians and then run on moderately powerful computers.

I wrote about Brazilian ants several months ago. This new study seems to be in contrast to the conclusions of that article. This is not unusual in science that different studies with different techniques results in different conclusions.

Polar bears fighting for survival in the face of a rapid decline of polar ice have made the Arctic a poster child for the negative effects of climate change. But new research shows that species living in the tropics likely face the greatest peril in a warmer world.


…tropical species have a far greater risk of extinction with warming of just a degree or two. That is because they are used to living within a much smaller temperature range to begin with, and once temperatures get beyond that range many species might not be able to cope.


In the tropics many species appear to be living at or near their thermal optimum, a temperature that lets them thrive. But once temperature gets above the thermal optimum, fitness levels most likely decline quickly and there may not be much they can do about it.


Many tropical species can only tolerate a narrow range of temperatures because the climate they experience is pretty constant throughout the year


“Our research focused only on the impact of changes in temperature, but warming also will alter rainfall patterns,” Deutsch said. “These effects could be more important for many tropical organisms, such as plants, but they are harder to predict because hydrological cycle changes are not as well understood.”

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