Globally, warmer ecosystems generally support more species than cooler locations. And a recent study by Peter Mayhew and colleagues from the University of York has also found that this relationship holds true over geological time periods too, with warmer geological periods being linked to higher rates of speciation, although these warmer periods are also linked to high extinction rates.
So what does this information mean for our current anthropogenically forced climate change trajectory? Whilst we might predict an increase in speciation rates, the rapid changes in climate that we are seeing are likely to promote even higher rates of extinction. These dynamics, linked with the massive extinction pressures already being imposed by habitat loss and invasive species, are not good news for biodiversity.
This conclusion is borne out by a recent study published by CSIRO, and confirms previous predictions. Dave Hilbert and colleagues predict that rapid ecological change will be an important feature of Australian landscapes in the future, saying that ‘The bush will look, smell and sound very different 50 years from now’.