(ORDO NEWS) — A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Arizona has shed light on the alarming rate at which climate change is driving species to extinction. The study focused on the Yarrow spiny lizard, a species native to the southwestern United States and western Mexico, and found that a 70-year extinction event linked to climate change had occurred in just seven years.
Researchers studied spiny lizard populations in 18 mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and analyzed the species’ extinction rate as a function of climate. The results were stunning: over a seven-year period, approximately half of the lizard populations living at low altitudes disappeared. This decline in populations at low altitudes is a clear sign of climate change, as temperatures become warmer at low altitudes, making it increasingly difficult for these lizards to survive.
“The magnitude of extinctions we found over the past seven years is similar to those observed in other studies spanning nearly 70 years,” said John J. Wiens, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Arizona State University and the study’s senior author.
The study authors also compared their findings with historical data from the same mountain ranges and found that the average extinction rate of lizard populations at low altitudes has tripled over the past seven years compared with the previous 42 years. This acceleration in extinction rates due to climate change is alarming and calls for urgent action.
In addition, researchers have found that a distinct 3-million-year-old lineage of the Jarrow spiny lizard could become extinct by 2025. This species, native to the Mule Mountains near Bisbee, is experiencing rapid population decline. While Mule Mountain populations were thriving in 2014, by 2022 they will be limited to an area within 300 feet of the mountain’s summit, losing approximately 170 feet per year.
“In 2014, the low-flying populations in Mulah were fine. Now the only ones we found remained within 300 feet of the mountaintop in 2022, and they appear to be losing about 170 feet per year,” Wiens explained. .
The study also highlights the role of genetic differences in a species’ ability to adapt to climate change. The researchers found that populations with less genetic diversity were more likely to go extinct, suggesting that genetic diversity plays a critical role in a species’ resilience to environmental change.
This study is a wake-up call about the devastating impact of climate change on biodiversity. Urgent action is needed to mitigate climate change and protect vulnerable species from extinction.
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