According to a new study released on Friday, climate change and habitat degradation will lead to extinctions that cascade across communities of animals and plants and create a drastic loss in biodiversity.
According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, chain-reaction extinctions are inevitable, and estimated that by 2050, the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems will have decreased on average by six to ten percent, depending on various carbon emission scenarios.
In their study, which employed virtual Earths to map out hundreds of food webs, they discovered that by 2100, losses of animals and plants might increase to as much as 27%.
The scientists predicted that the “bleakest moment for natural communities would be coming” and that “the next few decades will be important for the survival of global biodiversity,” saying that their modeling revealed that the major changes will occur before mid-century.
Scientists have warned that a million species are at risk of extinction in what many think is the planet’s sixth major extinction event, as life on Earth is threatened by human damage, overexploitation, and pollution.
With consequences of warming ranging from the effects of harsh weather to changes in behavior and habitat, climate change is anticipated to drastically increase the losses.
However, based on the “cascading effect” of losses on interdependent species, the authors of the current study claimed that estimations for co-extinctions had not been incorporated in earlier modeling.
According to co-author and professor at Flinders University, Corey Bradshaw, the researchers from Australia and Europe constructed hundreds of virtual Earths, each filled with more than 33,000 vertebrate species in thousands of food webs around the globe.
To forecast local biodiversity loss and the percentage of species lost in a particular location, they next ran simulations of various climate change scenarios and forecasts of habitat degradation, such as deforestation.
Researchers were able to see how species relocated and changed to fit changing climatic circumstances as well as the effects of individual extinctions on food webs thanks to the virtual environments.
They discovered that a large fraction of extinction events would be caused by climate change.
According to the “business as usual” climate scenario, Bradshaw told AFP, “if you look out your window in 87 years, on average you’ll observe roughly 30% fewer animal species than you see today.”
According to the study, the most susceptible locations—36 very fragile areas with the rarest species—were located in regions with the highest biodiversity.
According to Bradshaw, “this is because the deterioration of species-rich food webs renders biological groups more vulnerable to future shocks,” adding that it was “a case of the wealthy losing their riches the fastest.”
The study comes as a UN meeting in Montreal seeks to sign a historic “peace agreement with nature” and put an end to the unrelenting damage.
Experts are increasingly warning that the two problems are intrinsically connected, despite the fact that attempts to stop global warming have sometimes overshadowed efforts to stop the destruction of wildlife.
The loss of biodiversity as a result of climate change, according to Bradshaw, is “in many respects considerably more significant than what climate change will do to human cultures.” Biodiversity is the foundation of the Earth’s life-support system, which enables human existence.
“Knowing this makes the urgency of huge and swift emissions-reduction efforts even more important.”