Research reveals contrasting consequences of a warmer Earth
Scientists from the Universities of Leeds, York and Glasgow have been involved in a new study which suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms.
The research involved analysing fossil and geological records going back 540 million years and has found that increase in biodiversity depends on the evolution of new species over millions of years, and is normally accompanied by extinctions of existing species.
The researchers suggest that present trends of increasing temperature are unlikely to boost global biodiversity in the short term because of the long time scales necessary for new forms to evolve. Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss.
The study says that while warm periods in the geological past experienced increased extinctions, they also promoted the origination of new species, increasing overall biodiversity.
The new research is a refinement of an earlier study that analysed biodiversity over the same time interval, but with a less sophisticated data set, and concluded that a warming climate led to drops in overall diversity. Using the improved data that are now available, the researchers re-examined patterns of marine invertebrate biodiversity over the last 540 million years.
Professor Tim Benton, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, added: Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data. Our results seem to show that temperature improves biodiversity through time as well as across space. However, they do not suggest that current global warming is good for existing species. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.Posted in: Research and innovation