David Malakoff | January 27, 2011 | Conservation Magazine
Sparse tropical plant collections complicate efforts to predict climate impacts
Want to know if that Amazonian orchid you love so much is likely to survive a warming climate? Don’t hold your breath. Efforts to create models that predict how distributions of tropical species might shift due to climate change are “potentially crippled by a lack of basic data” on equatorial species, concludes a new analysis.
In recent years, researchers have turned to a technique called species distribution modeling (SDM) to predict how much habitat a particular species might gain, or lose, in a warming world. One recent study, for instance, found that a 2 degree Centigrade increase in temperature could drive up to one-third of the Amazon’s tree species to extinction. But that study rested on analysis of just nine tree species, Kenneth J. Feeley of Florida International University in Miami and Miles R. Silman of Wake Forest University in North Carolina note in Global Change Biology. That’s probably too few to get robust predictions, they argue. “It is clear that we must expand studies… to include a much broader and representative sample of species if we hope to understand, predict, and eventually mitigate the effects of global change on tropical biodiversity.”
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