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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11474-7. Epub 2003 Sep 19.

Global climate change and mammalian species diversity in U.S. national parks.

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School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


National parks and bioreserves are key conservation tools used to protect species and their habitats within the confines of fixed political boundaries. This inflexibility may be their "Achilles' heel" as conservation tools in the face of emerging global-scale environmental problems such as climate change. Global climate change, brought about by rising levels of greenhouse gases, threatens to alter the geographic distribution of many habitats and their component species. With these changes comes great uncertainty about the future ability of parks and protected areas to meet their conservation mandates. We report here on an analysis aimed at assessing the extent of mammalian species turnover that may be experienced in eight selected U.S. national parks if climate change causes mammalian species within the continental U.S. to relocate to new geographic locations. Due to species losses of up to 20% and drastic influxes of new species, national parks are not likely to meet their mandate of protecting current biodiversity within park boundaries. This approach represents a conservative prognosis. As species assemblages change, new interactions between species may lead to less predictable indirect effects of climate change, increasing the toll beyond that found in this study.

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