Climate change threatens amphibian and reptile species in southwestern Europe
Expected climate change could trigger a massive decline in amphibian and reptile species in southwestern Europe. This is the result of a new study within the "Alarm" research project, which is managed by the Environmental Research Center Leipzig-Halle (UFZ).
Miguel Araújo and his colleagues modeled the distribution of 42 amphibian and 66 reptile species for the next twenty to fifty years under four different scenarios of the international climate research project IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and three different climate models (HadCM3, CGCM2 and CSIRO2). The researchers found that rising temperatures are unlikely to pose a significant threat to amphibians and reptiles. In fact, a global cooling scenario could be much more devastating.
However, increasing drought could lead to a decline in the distribution of nearly all species in south-western Europe including Portugal, Spain and France. The implications are significant because these three countries together represent 62 percent of amphibian and reptile species in Europe. The high proportion of amphibian and reptile species in these three countries is due to the key role played by the Iberian Peninsula as a refuge from extinction during the last ice ages. "With expected climate change, these survival hotspots could become an extinction hotspot," warns Araújo.
Alarm is a major research project that is funded by the EU with around 12 million euros and that assesses risks for nature. It takes a closer look at four areas that are believed to contribute to the decline in biodiversity: climate change, the loss of pollinators such as bees, bumblebees and butterflies, the pollutants present in the environment and the invasion of non-native animal and plant species. Over 200 scientists work in over 25 countries across Europe and South America. © Environmental Research Center Leipzig-Halle