We Don’t Know How Most Mammals Will Respond to Climate Change, Warn Scientists

A new scientific review has found there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how mammal populations are responding to climate change, particularly in regions most sensitive to climate change.


The findings are published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Animal Ecology.

Nearly 25% of mammal species are threatened with extinction, with this risk exacerbated by climate change. But the ways climate change is impacting animals now, and projected to in the future, is known to be complex. Different environmental changes have multiple and potentially contrasting, effects on different aspects of animals’ lives, such as reproduction and survival (known as demographic rates).

A new review by a global team of researchers from 15 different institutions has found that most studies on terrestrial mammals only looked at one of these demographic rates at a time, potentially not showing the full picture of climate change impacts.

In a search of 5,728 terrestrial mammal species, the researchers found only 106 studies that looked at both survival and reproduction at the same time. This covered 87 species and constitutes less than 1% of all terrestrial mammals.

“Researchers often publish results on the effects of climate on survival or on reproduction – and not both. But only in rare cases does a climatic variable (say, temperature) consistently negatively or positively affect all studied rates of survival and reproduction.” said Dr Maria Paniw from the University of Zurich and lead author of the review.

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