Global Warming Is Already Changing Genes

Global Warming Is Already Changing GenesWarmer temperatures are already affecting some species in discernible ways. Sea turtles on dark sands, for instance, will more likely be feminine because of higher temperatures. Julian Fong, levork/flickr, CC BY-SA

Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study in Science.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” says study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the department of wildlife, ecology and conservation at the University of Florida.

“Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges, and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”

Scheffers and researchers from 10 countries found that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.

“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” says coauthor James Watson of the University of Queensland. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.”

Many of the impacts on species and ecosystems affect people, according to the authors, with consequences ranging from increased pests and disease outbreaks, unpredictable changes in fisheries, and decreasing agriculture yields.

“Many of the responses we are observing today in nature can help us determine how to fix the mounting issues that people face under changing climate conditions,” Scheffers says. “For example, by understanding the adaptive capacity in nature, we can apply these same principles to our crops, livestock, and aquacultural species.”

“Current global climate change agreements aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” says Wendy Foden, coauthor and chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Specialist Group. “We’re showing that there are already broad and serious impacts from climate change right across biological systems.”

Source: University of Florida

Author and Article Source

The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people by Brett R. Scheffers et al. is published in Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7671

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