Thursday, June 26, 2008

Climate change could extinguish two-third of California's plant species


coastal redwoodClose to 2,300 of California's unique plant species could face "collapse" as a result of global warming's toll on the Golden State according to a new study published in PLoS One, reports the LAT's Margot Roosevelt. Most plant species would need to move 100 miles or more from their present ranges to reach cooler areas or higher altitudes, an unlikely possibility given their slow migration rates and heavy urban development.

Examining the impact of climate change on species mobility
The study, led by UC Berkeley ecologist David Ackerly, examined more than 80,000 organisms from 16 collections over a period of 5 years under 8 different warming and species mobility scenarios. Many of those they studied, particularly the species endemic to Southern California, are "right on the edge" and could tip into extinction at the slightest change in weather patterns.

woolyleaf ceanothus
Image from Jef Poskanzer

Coming to terms with a worst-case scenario
Plant diversity could drop by up to 25 percent across the state, and two-thirds of all endemic species would see their range plummet by more than 80 percent under the study's worst-case scenario.

Coast redwoods may range farther north, it said, while California oaks could disappear from Central California in favor of cooler weather in the Klamath Mountains along the Oregon border. Many plants may no longer be able to survive in the northern Sierra Nevada or in the Los Angeles Basin.

It also predicts that plants of northern Baja California will migrate into San Diego County ranges. Meanwhile, the Central Valley could become the preferred habitat for plants of the Sonoran Desert.

Image from . Mike

Other ramifications and possible solutions
The plant species' migrations will be exacerbated by the fact that they could be separated from their pollinators -- many of which depend on them. Corridors should be established to facilitate the migrations, the scientists urge, as should refuges to hold the most vulnerable species.

Be sure to head over to The Great Beyond for much more coverage and analysis.

Via ::The Great Beyond: Californian plants can’t take the heat (blog)

Climate change and California
::Climate Change Expected to Drastically Alter California
::Global Warming or Not: The Debate Over California's Wildfires

The impact of climate change on biodiversity
::Alternative Economy Needed for Biodiversity?
::Climate Change Could Wipe Out Half of World's Species

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