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Ecol Lett. 2012 Apr;15(4):365-377. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01736.x. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Impacts of climate change on the future of biodiversity.

Author information

Ecologie, Systématique & Evolution, UMR CNRS 8079, Univ. Paris Sud, Orsay Cedex 91405, France.
Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA), UMR-CNRS 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble 1, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.
Contributed equally


Many studies in recent years have investigated the effects of climate change on the future of biodiversity. In this review, we first examine the different possible effects of climate change that can operate at individual, population, species, community, ecosystem and biome scales, notably showing that species can respond to climate change challenges by shifting their climatic niche along three non-exclusive axes: time (e.g. phenology), space (e.g. range) and self (e.g. physiology). Then, we present the principal specificities and caveats of the most common approaches used to estimate future biodiversity at global and sub-continental scales and we synthesise their results. Finally, we highlight several challenges for future research both in theoretical and applied realms. Overall, our review shows that current estimates are very variable, depending on the method, taxonomic group, biodiversity loss metrics, spatial scales and time periods considered. Yet, the majority of models indicate alarming consequences for biodiversity, with the worst-case scenarios leading to extinction rates that would qualify as the sixth mass extinction in the history of the earth.


Biodiversity; climate change; species extinctions

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