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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Global warming hurrying along the sixth mass extinction?

Over the last few years there has been a continous flow of evidence that the behaviour of plants and animals is changing (often inappropriately) in response to rapid and .

In a recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, one of the authors, Marcel Visser, from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Heteren, sounds a stark warning:

"The point has often been made that temperatures have increased before in the Earth's past; but the rate now is 100 times greater. And whereas in those times there were large areas of natural habitat, now it's much more difficult for animals to change or migrate; plus there's loss of genetic diversity, habitat fragmentation - it's just much more difficult for species than 1,000 years ago."

In the research paper, Marcel and a co-author catalog over 50 publications carrying evidence for animals and plants responding inappropriately to changes brought about by modern global warming.

As well as the human-caused habitat destruction and deforestation which has already been heralded as the beginning of the sixth mass extinction in the history of Earth (and the first mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago), it appears that global warming is now taking part in the mayhem as well.


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