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Together, climate and land use change pose massive threat

Cara J

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For decades now, scientists have been trying to understand the implications of climate change for species around the world. But climate change isn’t the only major environmental transformation being driven by humans. Land use changes are also impacting ecosystems that wildlife relies on across the planet. What happens when these two forces combine? New research suggests that together, climate change and land use change could wipe out a large portion of terrestrial vertebrate species in ecological communities over the next several decades. “When I looked at the combined effects of climate and land use, predictions of change were very high losses of biodiversity,” said Tim Newbold, the author on the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A research fellow with the United Kingdom’s University College London, Newbold used maps that conservatively estimated present and future land uses, such as cultivation, livestock grazing and human habitation. He complemented those maps with climate forecasts and analyzed tens of thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians under four carbon emission scenarios of varying severity projected out to 2070. Land use change has already brought about the loss of 11 percent of vertebrate species from the average community, Newbold found, but [...]

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