Warming increases biodiversity, except when it doesn’t

One of the most famous paintings of a dodo spe...

I’m surprised the extinction of the Dodo hasn’t been blamed on global warming, yet. One of the most famous paintings of a dodo specimen, as painted by Roelant Savery in 1626. The image came into the possession of the ornithologist George Edwards, who later gave it to the British Museum  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the University of York  news that warming increases biodiversity. Since that’s a buzzword in the biology protectors circle, you’d think they’d be happy about this. Nope.

Research reveals contrasting consequences of a warmer Earth

A new study, by scientists from the Universities of York, Glasgow and Leeds, involving analysis of fossil and geological records going back 540 million years, suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms.

But the research says that the increase in biodiversity depends on the evolution of new species over millions of years, and is normally accompanied by extinctions of existing species.

The researchers suggest that present trends of increasing temperature are unlikely to boost global biodiversity in the short term because of the long timescales necessary for new forms to evolve. Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss. The study which is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says that while warm periods in the geological past experienced increased extinctions, they also promoted the origination of new species, increasing overall biodiversity.

The new research is a refinement of an earlier study that analysed biodiversity over the same time interval, but with a less sophisticated data set, and concluded that a warming climate led to drops in overall diversity. Using the improved data that are now available, the researchers re-examined patterns of marine invertebrate biodiversity over the last 540 million years.

Lead author, Dr Peter Mayhew, of the Department of Biology at York, said: “The improved data give us a more secure picture of the impact of warmer temperatures on marine biodiversity and they show that, as before, there is more extinction and origination in warm geological periods. But, overall, warm climates seem to boost biodiversity in the very long run, rather than reducing it.”

Dr Alistair McGowan, of the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow said: “The previous findings always seemed paradoxical. Ecological studies show that species richness consistently increases towards the Equator, where it is warm, yet the relationship between biodiversity and temperature through time appeared to be the opposite. Our new results reverse these conclusions and bring them into line with the ecological pattern.”

Professor Tim Benton, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, added: “Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data. Our results seem to show that temperature improves biodiversity through time as well as across space. However, they do not suggest that current global warming is good for existing species. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.”

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It is worth noting that species extinction is nothing new.

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67 Responses to Warming increases biodiversity, except when it doesn’t

  1. Nylo says:

    These conclusions are somewhat incorrect, in my opinion. Circumstances changing quickly favour a faster evolution as well. When circumstances are very stable and all existing species have had a lot of time to adapt to their environment, being highly especialised, it is increasingly unlikely that an individual with a mutation will have a competitive advantage against them and therefore become the beginning of a new succesful species. However, when there is some “abrupt” change and suddenly most of the previously existing species are not too well adapted to the new circumstances, it is easier for mutant individuals to have some possible advantage against them.

  2. polistra says:

    At some point the biodiversity fetishists will have to notice two much larger trends in biology.

    The whole concept of species has dissolved. The qualities that supposedly separate one species from another are dubious at best. Too many exceptions.

    And the idea that change happens only through slow random mutation is obsolete, as we learn more about the power of epigenetic change. It appears that creatures can change many of their attributes in one generation when necessary, or even during one lifetime.

    These changes of concept should eliminate the basis for panicky predictions. Of course that won’t bother the biodiversity loonies, since they’re clearly immune to all facts and logic.

  3. mfo says:

    I predict the eventual extinction of that species of monkey known as ‘calidum terra scientificus’ as the earth eventually begins to cool.

  4. cui bono says:

    Nowadays, scientists can’t bring themselves to call anything ‘good news’ lest they be struck off. Sad.

  5. Don R says:

    A civil servant received from a Government Minister, a report on the disastrous impact that global warming would have on the British economy and on the environment. Being required to comment on the report, the civil servant wrote “BALLS” in pencil on the top right hand corner of the cover of the report.

    He then had second thoughts, for he realised that his career prospects could be severely diminished or he might even be fired, so he erased the word and then wrote “ROUND OBJECTS”.

    After five weeks, the report was returned to him by the same Minister and under his words was written “Who is Round and exactly what is he objecting to?”

    Perhaps the report in question was that shown above.

  6. TerryT says:

    Not really anything new, Stephen Jay Gould was saying such with his theory of punctuated equilibrium. The more rapid the environment changes the more rapid populations adapt, even within a few generations depending on the species, and that means extinction of populations that do not adapt well.

  7. jrwakefield says:

    Since the average life span of a species is 2 million years, and for every new species, another must go extinct, I don’t understand their problem with extinction. It’s a normal and essentIal part of evolution.

  8. eligraham says:

    It is interesting reading about controversial situations like global warming and their effects on the things like biodiversity. Very educational.

  9. Gary says:

    More than temperature influences biodiversity. For example, physical space is a major factor. Tropical rainforests would not be as diverse as they are if they were savannah rather than forest. A tall tree canopy provides the dimension of height that adds a huge volume of physical space for a variety of niches. This study, even with a “more sophisticated” data set, draws only the grossest of conclusions. And basing conclusions solely on the marine invertebrate record, detailed as it may be, leaves out numerous other ecosystems not so well represented that may show a different trend. All in all, just another case of extrapolation beyond the data — stock in trade for the climate science cadre.

  10. William McClenney says:

    Wow! They actually figured out something I learned in Paleontology. Forty years ago! Dimpressive!

  11. brain Macker says:

    It doesn’t work the way they think. They seem to be claiming that the warming itself kills off some species short term and then others adapt. Like polar bears disappear short term merely because it is warmer and not from other factors like competition. If humans and all other land predators except polar bears went extinct today, then polar bears and their descendants would fill many of the ecological niches left vacant, despite increasing temperatures. That’s because with all the prey they would have it easy going despite their comparative disadvantages with other predators. Those comparative disadvantages don’t matter any more if the predators are absent, and polar bears can spread.

  12. Species become extinct, it is what they do. It will happen to Homo sapiens.
    To look at the fossil history and conclude that, without climate change or whatever, these species would be alive today is ludicrous. Just think how crowded the planet would be since 95% of all species that have ever lived are extinct. Thank goodness.
    Do these people belong to the WWF?. The WWF are trying to get money from the gullible by claiming that there are only 35 Amur leopards left and £3 a week will save them. 35 is far too small a gene pool for continuation of any species that relies on sexual reproduction!

  13. SandyInLimousin says:

    These researchers haven’t had a look a Galapagos Finches (mistaken by many as one of the sources og Darwins theories) this can be found on the web with a little effort:

    “What do the Finches demonstrate about evolution?

    Though the finches were not important in the work of Charles Darwin, they do tell us something about evolution. In particular, over the past few decades, two scientists have done an excellent long term study on the finches on one of the Galapagos Islands. This is accurately described by the textbook Advanced Biology. (Jones, M., and G. Jones. 1997. Cambridge University Press) The authors recount how from 1977 to 1982 there was a drought on one of the Galapagos Islands, and due to natural selection the average finch beak size became larger…

    However, this proved not to be the end of the story. If it continued in this way, the average beak size of G. fortis would continue to get larger and larger. But this has not happened (p. 153)

    This cumulative change does not occur for two reasons. (1) There are disadvantages to having a large beak, especially when a bird is young. This can outweigh the advantages. (2) The selection pressure on the island fluctuates. In 1982 the drought stopped and there was selection for birds with small beaks.

    It can therefore be argued that the study shows natural limits to evolutionary change. Variation in a species is a good thing, as it gives them the ability to cope with environmental change, but variation does have limits.”

    I’m not sure that I agree that the beak size would have continued to increase as there must be an optimum; but the speed of change over 5 years can leave no doubt that some if not all species with a rapid breeding cycle will evolve with the conditions.

  14. pat says:

    [thanks but off topic, needs to be in the appropriate thread - A]

  15. pat says:

    O/T apology:

    3 Sept: New Scientist: Stefan Rahmstorf: If 2013 breaks heat record, how will deniers respond?
    With an El Nino on the way, 2013 could be the warmest year on record. But the climate-denial machine will keep on churning
    IT HAS been another “normal” global-warming summer in the northern hemisphere. The US sweltered in the hottest July on record, following the hottest spring on record. More than 60 per cent of the contiguous US is suffering from drought, as are parts of eastern Europe and India. In the Arctic, sea ice cover is at a record low and the Greenland ice sheet shows what the US National Snow and Ice Data Center calls “extraordinary high melting”. Global land temperatures for May and June were the hottest since records began in the 19th century…
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528804.400-if-2013-breaks-heat-record-how-will-deniers-respond.html?full=true

    Rahmstorf conveniently omits:

    30 Aug: BBC: Paul Hudson: Summer 2012 – 2nd wettest on record
    So far 367mm of rain has fallen, compared with 384mm which was recorded in 1912.
    It’s also been the dullest summer since 1980, and cool, with mean temperatures 0.4C below average…
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2012/08/summer-2012—2nd-wettest-on-r.shtml

  16. ferdberple says:

    brain Macker says:
    September 4, 2012 at 5:54 am
    It doesn’t work the way they think.
    ========
    Agreed. If the climate warms, then warm adapted species can move into previous cold area and out-compete cold adapted species. It isn’t the climate change that causes extinction. It is the relative ability of different life forms to take advantage of the change.

    The idea that new species appear in a linear fashion is not supported by the paleo evidence. New species appear in bursts, typically following extinction events when there is food available but nothing to eat it.

    Tree dwelling kangaroos show that tree dwelling polar bears would evolve except for the squirrels living there today. It is food (energy) supply that drives adaptation. In seeking to limit access to energy, AGW policy seeks to restrict human population.

  17. CodeTech says:

    This is a pretty simplistic concept… not unlike the whole “CO2 causes catastrophic warming” hypothesis, which is far too simplistic to pass the “real world” test.

    Species are perfectly capable of moving (well, except where we, humans, have eliminated that possibility). Climate zones historically have moved, and their inhabitants have followed. This alone pretty much blows away the entire premise.

  18. laserninja says:

    These days Scientists swings there decisions here and there…We have no choice but to agree…

  19. commieBob says:

    John Marshall says:
    September 4, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Species become extinct, it is what they do. It will happen to Homo sapiens.
    To look at the fossil history and conclude that, without climate change or whatever, these species would be alive today is ludicrous. Just think how crowded the planet would be since 95% of all species that have ever lived are extinct. Thank goodness.
    Do these people belong to the WWF?. The WWF are trying to get money from the gullible by claiming that there are only 35 Amur leopards left and £3 a week will save them. 35 is far too small a gene pool for continuation of any species that relies on sexual reproduction!

    We seem to have pulled Whooping Cranes back from the brink. Their lowest population was something like 15.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whooping_Crane

  20. gator69 says:

    “Professor Tim Benton, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, added: “Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data (funding).”

  21. higley7 says:

    Adaptation to warming is easier than adaptation to cooling. Cold kills. The key is that, with cold, plants fail to grow and then so do the animals. No choice there. With warming plants are less likely to fail, with some species competing out others, and then its adaptation and competition.

    Their short term conclusions regarding warming are conveniently compatible with the alarmist claims. However, Swiss researchers have found that warming increases biodiversity on mountains as species move upwards with warming while they also stay where they were and others move into those lower areas. The result is biodiversity increases and the likelihood of extinctions decreases as the organisms are more widely spread than before.

    PNAS is willing to publish papers supporting global warming based on consensus, using analysis of surveys and questionnaires of scientists to support an appeal from authority. It’s NOT science. Thus, why should I believe any of this? Their consensus results probably look similar to a list of researchers receiving climate change research funding.

  22. “Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.”

    Perhaps we should re-examine the concensus that it takes millions of years to substantially increase biodiversity.

    You can visit a 1000 foot stratigraphic column in the field that was built over a period of 100 million years. But it would be a colossal mistake to conclude each foot took 100,000 years. A single 10 foot sand could have been deposited in one flood event lasting less than a month.

    In a steady-state climate, why should biodiversity increase? Where as in a changing climate ecological niches develop where there were none. Existing niches by necessity get smaller. That situation applies pressure on existing species and offers opportunities for new species to take hold.

    The detail in current petroleum biostratigraphy, and theories of Punctuated Equilibrium support such a view of more rapid biodiversity.
    http://www.data.boem.gov/homepg/data_center/gandg/biochart.pdf>
    http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=stats

  23. DesertYote says:

    Seems that the press release authors have been well trained in that pseudo-science that educators call evolution, but is really a tool to support socialism and bash Christianity. Maybe they should talk to some real evolutionary biologists and find out how evolution actually works as far as currently understood. E.g., individuals do not evolve, populations do. This is a BIG difference. If a population evolves by segmenting its environment to become several species, did the original species go extinct? Many extinctions are of highly specialized organisms unable to adapt to changing conditions. The mega-fauna die off is still a mystery because it does not fit any of the patterns very well ( that and politics clouding the issue).

  24. Repaired link to the BOEM Biostratiraphic Chart, Jurassic to Quaternary, Gulf of Mexico
    http://www.data.boem.gov/homepg/data_center/gandg/biochart.pdf

  25. M Courtney says:

    If this was correct then tropical zones would contain more biodiversity than temperate zones which would contain more than polar zones…

    Oh yes, they do, don’t they?

    Well it may be an obvious statement but at least it passes the common sense test.
    All we need now is an understanding of how weather moves even faster than climate and they might be able to get a grip on evolution too.

  26. duncan binks says:

    I knew Alastair McGowan was a comedian but I never realised he had a PhD.

  27. DesertYote says:

    Gosh, my last post was terrible. Looks like I painted three black spots and expect everyone to see that it is a Polar Bear :(

    My main point is that the story of life is so complicated that even the experts barely have a clue. Many of the mathematical tools needed to describe thing didn’t even exist 20 years ago. … Dang looks like my meeting isn’t going to be canceled after all …

  28. vrgnpwr@netscape.net says:

    I predict the global warmists will go the way of the dodo’s because: They are dodo’s.

  29. Let me get this straight. Warming increases biodiversity except because the consequences in the short term might be slightly negative we shouldn’t change. Don’t these people argue that warming is bad because in the short term the consequences might be positive but a hundred years from now they will be negative so we should stop the warming? It’s just hard to keep straight when we should be thinking long term and when not.

  30. The problem I’ve had with the extinction argument is that we do not know really how many species there are, how fast new species are being created or how fast species are becoming extinct. We don’t know if the net is positive negative, what the overall impact of global warming or 100s of other natural phenomenon might have on biodiversity. The goal of understanding all this, like understanding climate, is desirable but it’s just too early in these fields to make any predictions about anything. So like climate predictions all these statements are groundless. We don’t know nearly enough to make any verifiable statements.

  31. DirkH says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    September 4, 2012 at 8:18 am
    “In a steady-state climate, why should biodiversity increase? Where as in a changing climate ecological niches develop where there were none. Existing niches by necessity get smaller.”

    Because of coevolution. New lifeforms create new niches by virtue of their existence. For instance, a rat is a biological niche for a flea. This way, life has become ever more diverse and evolution quicker.

  32. Robbie says:

    Anybody seen the original article? I cannot find it on PNAS.

  33. AnonyMoose says:

    “Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss.”

    Really? Darwin pointed out that the same alpine plants seem to occur on mountain tops around the world, despite it being unlikely that they could have migrated across the warm valleys and other terrain. He suspected that during the glacial periods, those warm valleys were comfortably cool for these alpine species and they spread widely until the warm-loving species returned after the glacial retreat. The glacial retreat was quite rapid, and the biological diversity certainly increased in those valleys after the warming.

    As for diversity increasing due to new species arising over millions of years — consider the many forms of the domestic dog, chicken, and pigeon. Those have only been changing for a short time, and are rather varied. Those may not have created new species yet, but is there a reason to assume that similarly rapid changes could not also cause quite a bit of diversity in the wild?

  34. DirkH says:

    “Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss.”

    Especially because the current speed of change is zero. (For the last 10 or 15 years)

  35. AnonyMoose says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    September 4, 2012 at 8:18 am
    “In a steady-state climate, why should biodiversity increase? Where as in a changing climate ecological niches develop where there were none. Existing niches by necessity get smaller.”

    Nothing is that steady. The equivalent of weather happens in a steady-state climate. A river delta keeps expanding and subsiding, creating change. River bends form oxbows and straighten, changing the local environment between forest, lake, and marsh. Hills erode down. Forests burn and grow. Ducks bring snails and seeds to new places. Caves form or are destroyed. Flying critters are blown hundreds of miles from where they usually are.

  36. davidmhoffer says:

    So, let’s take them at their word.

    Rapid change = extinction.

    Did anyone notice that they failed to quantify “rapid change”?

    If we accept the highly adjusted work of GISS and HadCrut we have a rate of change of about 1/100 of a degree per year. Is that rapid? Is that rapid enough to cause mass extintions? Oh, they’re worried about FUTURE rapid change, not CURRENT rapid change. They MUST be talking about FUTURE rate of change because we’ve had the CURRENT rate of change in place now for about 400 years (since the LIA). So it must be an increase in the FUTURE rate of change that they are talking about, because we haven’t seen any mass extinctions over the last 400 years.

    Except….ooops…. CO2′s effects are logarithmic. So, current contributions would have to increase exponentially just to maintain the CURRENT rate of change, let alone an INCREASED rate of change.

  37. gringojay says:

    +/- 1,200 species fully extinct since1600 A.D. (http://www.iucnredlist.org/.)

  38. mikerossander says:

    The assumption that speciation occurs over “millions of years” has been rejected by mainstream evolutionary theory for decades now. The dominant model (which is supported by the fossil record) is ‘punctuated equilibrium’- that is, species remain largely stable for long periods then rapidly respond to some probably-external event. True, the fossil record doesn’t show responses in single years or even centuries – the record is simply not that discrete – but neither does the fossil record preclude it. And a number of other lines of evidence support the potential for rapid speciation.

  39. Jim Johnson says:

    I am not so sure that adaptation, especially in regards to temperatures or rapid temperature changes, really needs to take a long time.
    Most all of us ‘transplants’ that have moved from a cool Pacific Northwest to a hot and humind Southeast can attest to moving between somewhat radical extremes. The first couple years we really have a hard time adjusting to the oppressive summer heat and humidity of a Southeast summer…you just want to run from air conditioned car to house to store to get out of the heat. But with passing years, the sheer avoidance of the heat seems to slowly disappear and after a decade or so we can easily stand outside chatting with neighbors around a hot barbeque without feeling the overwhelming urge to run inside the house and get yet another cool shower.
    I can’t say if it is really a physiological change that allows our bodies to sweat more, or the cappilaries to change dilation responses or if it is more psychological. But the effect is real for almost all who remain here. The body/mind seems to adapt to the conditions after a few years.

    Can short-lived creatures adapt or pass the adaptive genes to the next generation? Not sure. But are there really any studies that show that the vast majority of animals or crops could not manage to adapt to an ‘abrupt’ temperature rise of 1.5 degrees a century? I know there are lots of outside cats and dogs that live from Maine to Georgia. I can grow the same fescue varieties in Oregon as I can in North Carolina. Is it really so impossible for living things to adapt to slight decadal changes?

    Jim, too.

  40. Jim Johnson says:

    Humind=humid
    cappilaries=capillaries

    You get the idea…

    Jim, too.

  41. Schitzree says:

    The new research is a refinement of an earlier study that analysed biodiversity over the same time interval, but with a less sophisticated data set, and concluded that a warming climate led to drops in overall diversity.

    So they produced a paper that concluded “OMG Warming Leads To Lower Biodiversity!”, and when real biologists pointed out that it was obviously wrong (and pretty dumb) they produced a 2nd paper that concludes “Warming leads to greater biodiversity but OMG First Mass Extinctions Happen, IWTWT.”

    Now we just have to wait for the real biologists to point out that this is also obviously wrong (and almost as dumb) and that’s not how evolution works. Or they can just read the posts in this thread.

    I for one can’t wait for their 3rd paper, which will conclude “Warming leads to greater biodiverity by species evolving to adapt, BUT THEN…OMG MASS EXTINCTION IWTWT WE’RE ALL DOOMED THERMAGEDION!!!1!

  42. Chris R. says:

    To gringojay:

    “+/- 1,200 species fully extinct since1600 A.D….”
    Out of how many? And virtually all of those extinctions were caused by hunting. It is axiomatic that a man with a rifle is the most efficient predator.

    To date, I know of no confirmed instance of a species going extinct due to AGW. Can you provide one?

  43. @AnonyMoose Sept. 4, 2012 at 10:39 am
    Nothing is that steady.

    I mentioned a “Steady-state climate” more as a thought experiment. “Steady-state” ought to have the least biodiversity compared to changing climates. I also believe that some CAGW proponents believe in some ideal steady-state climate in the very recent past and any deviation from that is, in their mind, toward some worse or less desirable state.

    Yes, of course, weather and changing of seasons stress an individual’s survival far more than any expected climate change. From the AGW alarm, you would think annual mass migrations were an unobserved behavior in the biosphere.

    @DirkH says: Sept. 4, 2012 at 9:58 am
    Because of Coevolution. New lifeforms create new niches by virtue of their existence.

    Well said. Very astute. The dog, the cockroach, the bed-bug, and the staphylococcus are 4 of limitless examples.

  44. Richard M says:

    We see significant and quick changes in temperature every 100K years (or less). Since most species around right now have survived these glaciation/melting cycles it would appear to me this conjecture has already been falsified.

  45. Gary Hladik says:

    I doubt that recent or near future warming has caused or will cause a detectable increase in extinctions, but if it does come down to a choice between warmer winters and the Crawley’s Dung Beetle, I’ll go with the warmer winters.

  46. gringojay says:

    Hi Chris R.,
    I personally doubt any extinction was from AGW, despite some being a consequence of humans.
    Rate of extinction presented to the general public in last decades has been way off base – one canard was 100 daily.

  47. Latitude says:

    Warming is very very good for bad things……like mosquitoes, ticks, sharks, and viruses

    and warming is very very bad for pretty things…..like birds, butterflies, and posies

  48. johanna says:

    It’s a bit like the story of the disappearing MWP/LIA. They have retreated from utterly disprovable silliness (warming is bad for biodiversity) to just fudging silliness (well, OK, but it’s still bad because …).

    Pathetic.

  49. davidmhoffer says:

    Weather Willy here with tomorrow’s forecast. The low will be 15.00 C and the high 25.00 C.

    Now for the long range forecast. We’re expecting that one year from now the next day’s forecast will be 15.01 C for a low and 25.01 C for a high.

    EVERYONE PANIC!
    SPECIES EXTINCTION IS UPON US!

  50. mikerossander says:

    gringojay says:
    “+/- 1,200 species fully extinct since1600 A.D. (http://www.iucnredlist.org/.)”

    Interestingly, that site only lists 801 species as having gone extinct (and some of them were listed in the 1500s). What is your basis for the adjustment?

    Also interestingly, that site lists reasons for extinction where known. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority have no reason listed. (69 of the first 100 in their list.) Of the ones where an extinction reason WAS listed:
    10 – habitat destruction (strip mining, lake draining, urbanization, conversion to agricultural land)
    16 – introduction of invasive species (primarily as predators but a few cases of out-competing)
    15 – overhunting/overfishing (which arguably is a flavor of invasive species with man as the predator)

    Note: Does not total 100 because some had multiple reasons listed.
    Note 2: Many of the 69 with no reason listed showed that the species was local to the Hawaiian islands. Absent a more rigorous study, it is impossible to know for sure but my strong suspicion is that invasive species would be implicated in the majority.

    That site also lists estimated dates of extinction – or at least last confirmed sightings.
    1500s – 6
    1600-49 – 1
    1650-99 – 3
    1700-49 – 2
    1750-99 – 4
    1800-49 – 3
    1850-99 – 7
    1900-49 – 5
    1950-99 – 8
    2000+ – 0
    no date estimated – 61

    So, yes, there is an increase in the rate of extinction. Looking at the pattern, though, the largest die-off dates to the Age of Exploration and correlates with the invasive species and over-hunting reasons. The 20th century extinctions correlate to habitat destruction.

  51. The real problem with current era extinctions is fragmented and disapearing habitats. A very good way of increasing contiguous habitats is to return all that land currently growing biofuel crops back to natural habitat.

  52. gringojay says:

    Hi mikerossander,
    “Re-assessing current extinction rates”
    http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/351729/Stork-Biod-Cons-2009.pdf

  53. DesertYote says:

    gringojay
    September 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Hi mikerossander,
    “Re-assessing current extinction rates”
    http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/351729/Stork-Biod-Cons-2009.pdf

    ###

    Don’t make me laugh, The Stork paper, HO HO Ha heehee!

  54. Bill Hunter says:

    I thought the theory of evolution was about the “survival of the fittest!” I guess they are going to rewrite that next into the theory of the “survival of the barely fit” where government aid will be required for anything to survive. There won’t be many bureaucrats around that won’t gobble that up with both hands and their head in the bowl.

  55. Neo says:

    I’ve been a bit suspect of any group involved in bio-diversity since reading about efforts to deal with HIV being presented at a biodiversity conference. Instead of merely trying to save species, the biodiversity crowd is in the business of picking winners and losers (a real scary prospect).

  56. Robert Kral says:

    All the hand wringing about how warming will have a catastrophic effect on the biosphere has always mystified me. The claims about slight ocean warming wiping out corals are at odds with geographic evidence of thriving corals during much warmer geological periods. LIkewise, if the natural ranges of some species shift with warmer climates, that is not catastrophic, it’s just adaptive. A cooling climate would have effects that are at least equal, quite possibly much more severe. Any biologist educated in my era (the ’80s) learned that biodiversity is greatest in the tropics, i.e., the warmest portion of the planet. That was a major part of the impetus to save the rain forests: destruction equals loss of biodiversity. I have no idea when the notion arose that warmer climates would be detrimental to biodiversity, but I suspect it was not a data-driven event.

  57. Jimbo says:

    From what I can gather during the PETM global temperatures rose by about 6 °C (11 °F) over 20,000 years. Now take a look at this very localized example unlike Yamal & bristle cones. ;-)

    Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6006/957

  58. thingadonta says:

    I suppose all those critters freezing to death at the end of the ice age weren’t able to cope with rapid increased warmth.

  59. gringojay says:

    Hi DesertYote,
    I repeat that I don’t concur with Stokes’ inference that popularly predicted global warming is a/the greatest species threat. Aside from that presumption his break down of subjects & research covered are mostly reasonably presented without alarmism.
    Linking to it was answering mikerossander querry for basis of my idea +/- (more or less) 1,200 extinctions in contrast to redlist’s website enumerating only 801 extinctions. I think it likely some of their symbiont species, unnoticed by human observers, have also gone extinct & I should have put this in my initial comment.

  60. Jimbo says:

    From what I have managed to gather just over 99% of all species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. I wonder how many species became extinct during the last ice age with its increased desertification and the retreat of many species towards the tropics.

    http://books.google.gm/books/about/Extinction.html?id=8klou91MwJoC&redir_esc=y
    http://www.lassp.cornell.edu/newmme/science/extinction.html

  61. Bob Tisdale says:

    “I’m surprised the extinction of the Dodo hasn’t been blamed on global warming, yet.”

    If you were really a contrarian, you would have stated the extinction of the dodo caused global warming.

  62. BioBob says:

    Nothing in Biology is as simple as it appears to the student.

    First, evolution is an “All of the Above” process. Warming, cooling, stable, variable, whatever. Life always finds a new way PERIOD. Boiling hot springs, frozen lakes, bring it all on and life will persevere, adapt, and survive as long as there is an acceptable environment, energy to use and a place to live.

    Second, warmth and wet coupled with stability of environment equals the highest diversity on this planet which is simple observational science. I don’t know which planet the AGW morons come from but it isn’t ours. Stability results in species jostling to find the most energetic efficiency in any environment if given enough time. This equates to many species in smaller and smaller units with many species of lower population size and less dominance by the most versatile species. Environmental inconstancy always equates to high dominance by fewer species.

    Third, we KNOW from lab experiments with insects that new adaptations and therefore new species can propagate throughout a finite population in as little as 25 generations which in some insects equals less than one to two YEARS. Therefore this millions of years for new species is complete bullcrap.

    Lastly, species concepts are human constructs but the life form ALWAYS knows it’s acceptable mates, which is all that matters. To see the absurd conceptual leaps humans make one only has to look at Brown Bears versus Grizzly Bears versus Polar Bears. We have long observed viable fertile offspring from Polar Bears crossed with Brown and Griz and yet STILL find it acceptable to call them different species. Idiots. Polar Bears have no such constraints and will mate with the OTHER species and vice versa whenever they can and that’s all that matters.

  63. Eric Anderson says:

    “Warming increases biodiversity, except when it doesn’t.”

    Although the researchers are trying to tie this into a review of what will happen with global warming (hey, it gets funding), at heart it is really a discussion of what evolution will do. For those familiar with evolutionary papers, Anthony’s title is sadly unremarkable. There is nothing whatsoever in evolutionary theory that allows us to determine how populations will change over long periods of time. They might evolve, they might not; they might adapt, they might not; they might grow, they might become extinct; and on and on. IOW, it is just a bunch of guesswork, with my guess every bit as good as yours and the next guy’s.

    BTW, for all those citing the ‘fact’ that 95%, 98%, or 99% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct, question for you: What is the source of that number? I’m not talking about some paper you’ve seen it stated in. I’m talking about the actual underlying number — where does it come from; how was the calculation made? [Hint: it doesn't come from actual fossils that have been found and counted.]

    Finally, it is observable, at least at the gross level, that warming is better for biodiversity. Count the number of species living at the North Pole or in the Arctic tundra versus the number of species living in, say, Costa Rica.

  64. BioBob says:

    >Eric Anderson says:
    September 6, 2012 at 10:04 am
    There is nothing whatsoever in evolutionary theory that allows us to determine how populations will change over long periods of time. They might evolve, they might not; they might adapt, they might not; they might grow, they might become extinct;
    ====================================
    sorry –> False
    Selection is constant. The only thing that changes is how strong the selection is and which “criteria” are selected for or against. Mostly we humans are usually just too stupid to determine which heritable characters are being selected for or against, but SOME individuals are always less or more capable of passing on genes into the next generation which equals what we call “Natural Selection”. It never stops – it only changes in effective force and point of action.

    On your point about most species being extinct, I would agree in the specific and disagree in the general case. Scientists only assume that more species are gone because we know so little about past species. But we know more about current species and we know that large numbers of representative taxa from fossils are now extinct. Given that our snapshot is less than a blink of the eye in the billion years or so of life on earth, the assumption is not that bad of a hypothesis.

    Keep in mind that a good scientist only concludes that our understanding of our world is only an approximation of the fact / truth, not fact / Truth itself. And therein lies most folks misunderstanding perhaps including yours.

  65. Eric Anderson says:

    BioBob:
    “Selection is constant. The only thing that changes is how strong the selection is and which “criteria” are selected for or against. Mostly we humans are usually just too stupid to determine which heritable characters are being selected for or against, but SOME individuals are always less or more capable of passing on genes into the next generation which equals what we call “Natural Selection”. It never stops – it only changes in effective force and point of action.”

    That is nice, but all you’ve done is restate the theory for us. Populations are subject to selection pressure, great. Will the population grow, decrease, go extinct, explode into new areas? Nobody knows. I agree with you that our knowledge is too limited. Indeed, knowing what will happen to a particular population over time would be like trying to determine what the Dow Jones will be in 100 years or what the climate in New York will be like in a couple of millenia. We simply have no clue and anyone who says they know is selling a bill of goods. And there isn’t anything in evolutionary theory itself that will help us. Saying populations are subject to selection (and that selection is awesomely powerful and constant and deserves our great respect) is no help — all that is is a restatement of the theory. Thus, as the headline of this post stated, in a given environment biodiversity will increase. Except when it doesn’t. A population can go left, right, sideways, up, down — we don’t know. Conveniently, however, any “change” can be regarded as ‘evolution’ and, therefore, vindication of the theory. Kind of like climate “change.” :)

    “Scientists only assume that more species are gone because we know so little about past species.”

    Agreed. And based on what is assumed to have been required to get where we are today. But it is not based on actual fossil counts, and the estimates of 95%, 98%, 99% could be wildly inaccurate. They are making assumptions to get to that number, not reporting a real data count. That is the key, and thus my question to the group.

    I also agree with you that we do the best we can with what knowledge we have and that it is best to remind ourselves that we are dealing with a limited amount of information and a limited ability to understand that information. That is why I like to question the things that are sometimes presented as unassailable “facts.” :)

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