Last updated October 10, 2018

Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants

  • States that although species have responded to climatic changes throughout their evolutionary history, a primary concern for wild species and their ecosystems is this rapid rate of change
  • Gathers information on species and global warming from 143 studies for our meta-analyses
  • These analyses reveal a consistent temperature-related shift, or ‘fingerprint’, in species ranging from molluscs to mammals and from grasses to trees
  • Finds more than 80% of the species that show changes are shifting in the direction expected on the basis of known physiological constraints of species
  • The balance of evidence from these studies strongly suggests that a significant impact of global warming is already discernible in animal and plant populations
  • Concludes that the synergism of rapid temperature rise and other stresses, in particular habitat destruction, could easily disrupt the connectedness among species and lead to a reformulation of species communities, reflecting differential changes in species, and to numerous extirpations and possibly extinctions