Friday, June 9, 2006

The Science of Global Warming: Evolutionary Response to Rapid Climate Change is Occurring Too Slowly

Link: Evolutionary Response to Rapid Climate Change

Bradshaw and Holzapel have reviewed the literature on evolutionary responses to seasonal and thermal changes associated with global warming.  They indicate that animals are responding to seasonal changes with both adaptive behavior and genetic changes:

The effects of rapid climate warming have penetrated to the level of the gene in a diverse group of organisms. These genetic changes in populations affect the timing of major life history events: when to develop, when to reproduce, when to enter dormancy, and when to migrate. Small animals with short life cycles and large population sizes will probably adapt to longer growing seasons and be able to persist; however, populations of many large animals with longer life cycles and smaller population sizes will experience a decline in population size or be replaced by more southern species. Questions remain about the relative rates of environmental and evolutionary change.  But it is clear that unless the long-term magnitude of rapid climate change is widely acknowledged and effective steps are taken to mitigate its effects, natural communities with which we are familiar will cease to exist

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