The average global temperature is expected to rise anywhere from 2˚F to 10˚F in this century, and for biodiversity, the consequences are likely to be profound. Many species
of wildlife and vegetation are expected to experience significant range modifications as they seek out more hospitable environments. Some may survive the shift. Those in areas where geography or other factors prevent such a move could be devastated.
The Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
(CABS) at CI is leading efforts to anticipate those changes and incorporate them into long-term conservation strategies. Research includes a recent modeling study of more than 300 species of the protea family in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region Hotspot
. Led by CABS biologist Lee Hannah and South African researcher Guy Midgley, the study determined that the vast majority of these spectacular flowering plants, many of them endemic to the Cape, will lose much of their present climatic range. “They will follow cooler temperatures upslope into smaller and smaller areas in the mountains,” Hannah explains. “Some species will lose all climatic range.”
Hannah and his colleagues are now monitoring species believed to be at particularly high risk. Their findings may be used to help revise park boundaries and design corridors in the Cape Floristic Region and Succulent Karoo
hotspots that reflect the warming. CABS is also using study results to help researchers working in other CI programs and partner organizations to better understand and anticipate climate change
On May 20, PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer aired a 10-minute segment about the effects of climate change on species extinctions. Lee Hannah was one of three scientists profiled throughout the segment.