A new study published in the journal Science has astounded biologists: global warming is not harming biodiversity, but instead is increasing the range and diversity of species in various ecosystems.
Environmentalists have long warned that global warming could lead to mass extinctions as fragile ecosystems around the world are made unlivable as temperatures increase. But a team of biologists from the United States, United Kingdom and Japan found that global warming has not led to a decrease in biodiversity. Instead, biodiversity has increased in many areas on land and in the ocean.
“Although the rate of species extinction has increased markedly as a result of human activity across the biosphere, conservation has focused on endangered species rather than on shifts in assemblages,” reads the editor’s abstract of the report.
The study says “species turnover” was “above expected but do not find evidence of systematic biodiversity loss.” The editor’s abstract adds that the result “could be caused by homogenization of species assemblages by invasive species, shifting distributions induced by climate change, and asynchronous change across the planet.”
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Researchers reviewed 100 long-term species monitoring studies from around the world and found increasing biodiversity in 59 out of 100 studies and decreasing biodiversity in 41 studies. The rate of change in biodiversity was modest in all of the studies, biologists said.
But one thing in particular that shocked the study’s authors was that there were major shifts in the types of species living in ecosystems. About 80 percent of the ecosystems analyzed showed species changes of an average of 10 percent per decade — much greater than anyone has previously predicted.
This, however, doesn’t mean that individual species aren’t being harmed by changing climates. The study noted that, for example, coral reefs in many areas of the world are being replaced by a type of algae.
“In the oceans we no longer have many anchovies, but we seem to have an awful lot of jellyfish,” Nick Gotelli, a biologist at the University of Vermont and one of the study’s authors, told RedOrbit.com. “Those kinds of changes are not going to be seen by just counting the number of species that are present.”
“We move species around,” Gotelli added. “There is a huge ant diversity in Florida, and about 30 percent of the ant species are non-natives. They have been accidentally introduced, mostly from the Old World tropics, and they are now a part of the local assemblage. So you can have increased diversity in local communities because of global homogenization.”
The study comes with huge implications for current species preservation strategies, as most operate under the assumption that biodiversity will decrease in a warming world. But if biodiversity is increasing, then conservationists may need a new way to monitor the effects of global warming on ecosystems.
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