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Climate change could completely change the Earth's ecosystems



52 million years ago, crocodiles swam in the Arctic. Twenty thousand years ago, an ice sheet covered Manhattan. Earth's ecosystems have changed dramatically as the climate has changed, and scientists are now trying to figure out how to respond to the current era of man-made climate change. Forty-two scientists contributed to a study published in Science Friday and looked at how land-based plants responded to temperature changes of four to seven degrees Celsius since the Ice Age to predict how land-based ecosystems might look on similar temperature changes that are predicted for the future.

They found that if we do not act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth's entire earth biome will change 75 percent, impacting biodiversity and making life difficult for anyone whose livelihoods are Based on an Existing Ecosystem

"If this kind of change takes place in such a short amount of time, the management of natural resources will create unprecedented challenges," study author and US Geological Survey Stephen Jackson told The Atlantic.

Over time, the researchers studied 594 examples of ecosystem changes to understand what changes we can expect from global warming.

"Five miles from my location lies the middle of the Sonoran Desert and Saguaro National Park," Jackson told The Atlantic from his desk in Tucson, Arizona. "Today there are big saguaro cacti, mesquite trees and ironwood trees, so if we rolled the calendar back 20,000 years and we went to the same place, we would find a forest of evergreen trees."

Jackson gave another example of how the Washington, DC area has changed from boreal forests, as they are today in Canada, to oak tree deciduous forests.

But while the period studied by the researchers spanned over 21

,000 years, similar temperature changes could occur within the next 100, and the rate of change could have a major impact.

"If you're a wildlife manager and your ecosystem is changing, if you're a forest manager trying to respond to forest fires, if you're a water manager responsible for converting precipitation estimates into reservoir levels," Jackson said The Atlantic, "then the old rules will not necessarily apply. "

Another study, published Thursday in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, looked at how species within ecosystems could respond to these dramatic changes in temperature.

The study, led by the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, looked back in time to see how plants and animals have responded to changes in their environment over the past millions of years

Fossils and other biological "archives" we have access to an almost unlimited number of case studies throughout Earth's history. This will give us valuable insights into how climate changes of different rates, magnitudes and species can affect biodiversity, "said Jackson, authorizing the second study, said in a press release from the University of Copenhagen.

Scientists had previously believed that species would simply migrate in response to changing climates, but the historical examples reviewed for this study showed that they often changed over time by changing their behavior or their body color or shape

current climate change may be too fast for evolution to keep up.

"We know that animals and plants have prevented extinction through adaptation or migration in the past. The models we use today to predict future climate change provide for magnitudes and rates of change that have been exceptionally rare in the past millions of years, said co-author Francisco Rodriguez-Sanchez of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) in the university publication.

Rodriquez-Sanchez said more research was needed to predict how species could respond to climate change, but hoped that the examples of successful adaptation could help decision-makers make effective decisions.

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