Climate change is threatening more species than expected

The study also demonstrates the urgent need for greater knowledge of heat tolerance limits

In a study recently published by the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, an international team of researchers, in which Miguel Carretero, professor at the Department of Biology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto and researcher at the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (BIOPOLIS-CIBIO) participates, reveals that there is a higher number than expected from populations that may be at risk due to the increase in temperature on the planet.

As temperatures rise across the planet, many species are retreating into the hottest parts of their geographic range, especially when temperatures exceed their heat tolerance.

Although there are numerous ways to measure this tolerance in different animal groups, little was known about how these measurements could help evaluate the distribution of species in places with higher temperatures.

In the study now published, the team led by Agustín Camacho, from the Autonomous University of Madrid, compiled more than a thousand tolerance records for various animal species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, marine fish and arthropods) in a database and shows the first relationships that exist between the thermal tolerance of these animals and their geographic distribution limits in warmer regions.

Among other discoveries made, it was found that in all groups of animals studied there are populations more or less exposed to risky temperatures. This contradicts more simplistic views that propose that marine species are systematically in greater danger of climate extinction.

On the other hand, according to news published on the BIOPOLIS-CIBIO page, it was found that, in animal species that are particularly exposed to temperatures that challenge their tolerance to heat, evolutionary responses will be essential in order to have an intrinsically high thermal tolerance. to live in increasingly hotter areas.

This discovery “changes a widely held view in the scientific community, in which it was assumed that the evolution of heat tolerance did not depend on geographic distribution in regions with higher temperatures”, highlights Miguel Carretero.

The study also demonstrates the urgent need for greater knowledge of the limits of heat tolerance and other functional characteristics of many species, in order to identify populations that need more immediate intervention in the face of global warming.