Non-threatened species at risk from climate change: study

More than half the world's amphibians and more than a third of birds could be put at a greater risk of extinction by climate change, a study warned today.

More than seven out of 10 warm water reef corals are also particularly susceptible to a changing climate, the report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.

Changes in temperature, seasons, rainfall, extreme weather events and carbon dioxide levels are all expected as the Earth's climate warms – with knock-on effects such as habitat loss and changes in fertility for wildlife.

According to the IUCN report, there are more than 90 biological traits which make species more susceptible to the affects of climate change.

They include a reliance on specific habitats, such as polar ice, mangroves or cloud forest, a vulnerability to small changes in temperature or a dependence on environmental triggers such as spring or rainfall to breed, migrate or hibernate.

Species which rely on interactions with prey, hosts or competitors or have a poor ability to disperse or find a new suitable habitat will also be hit.

The study found 3,438 of the world’s 9,856 bird species (35%) have at least one of the traits which would make them susceptible to climate change – including albatross, penguin, petrel and shearwater families.

But heron, egret, osprey, kite, hawk and eagle families are the least likely to be at risk.

Some 3,217 of the 6,222 amphibians were "climate change susceptible" (52%), with the overwhelming majority of Seychelles frogs, Indian burrowing frogs, Australian ground frogs, horned toads and glass frog families susceptible.

Many of the species which will be affected by climate change are already threatened with extinction, but the impacts of global warming could also put other, non-threatened species at risk.

More than two-fifths (41%) of non-threatened amphibian species are susceptible to climate change, while a quarter of non-threatened bird species would also be particularly affected.

Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN Species Programme, said: "Climate change may cause a sharp rise in the risk and rate of extinction of currently threatened species.

"But we also want to highlight species which are currently not threatened but are more likely to become so as climate change impacts intensify. By doing this we hope to promote pre-emptive and more effective conservation action."

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