An Alligator Juniper in Prescott, Arizona. The species is being pushed up into the mountains by climate change, a new study says. (Image credit: Tom Check via Wikimedia Commons)
Most people consider sea level rise the biggest problem related to climate change, and that is a critical issue, especially if you live in coastal areas and states like Florida. But here’s another dire consequence: a third of all plants and animal species could be extinct in the next 50 years.
Researchers at the University of Arizona looked at localized plant and animal extinctions in the past that have occurred in specific areas. They found that up to 50 percent of species suffered local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius and 95 percent if they increased by more than 2.9 degrees.
As a result, the rate of extinction is highly dependent on how much warming occurs in the coming years, according to the researchers, Cristian Román-Palacios and John Wiens, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.
“In a way, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure,'” said Wiens. “If we stick to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070. But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results.”
As one example, they considered the Alligator Juniper tree in Arizona. In flat lands, the plants are dying due to rising daytime temperatures. “Repeated surveys have shown that this species is literally being pushed up the mountain slopes under the impact of climate change,” the university said in a news release.
Here’s the kicker: Extinctions are projected to be two to four times more common in the tropics than in temperate regions. “This is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics,” Román-Palacios said.
Both plant and animal species will be equally affected, the researchers said.
SPRING IN THE AIR: Clear skies with plenty of sunshine will give temperatures a boost through at least Thursday of this week, with highs rising into the low 80s on the East Coast and as high as the upper 80s in southwestern parts of the Florida peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.
Beyond that, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for below normal temperatures in all of Florida from next Saturday into the following week.
NOAA will release its full March forecast on Thursday. The latest long-range CFS model shows cooler weather hanging on the first week of March followed by above normal temperatures as we head into the second half of the month.
RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach posted a record warm low Sunday of 71 degrees. It beat the old record of 70 set in 1965.